Enough of this rampant intolerance about a Hard Brexit…

STEVE Hilton used to be David Cameron’s policy guru. As Cameron has sunk without trace, you might think that Hilton would have done the same. Instead this morning he is laying into Theresa May, so all praise to the man who used to walk around Downing Street in bare feet, or so it is said.

Frankly, he always sounded like a bit of a shoeless twit to me, but Hilton does speak sense when he turns on the party he used to advise.

His latest target is the Conservatives’ idea to make firms list their foreign workers – a plan he sees as worse than Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the US.

Although he parted company with Cameron to back Brexit, Hilton is scathing about the suggestion trailed by home secretary Amber Rudd at the Conservative conference this week. Writing in the Sunday Times, he says that ministers might as well announce that “foreign workers will be tattooed with numbers on their forearms”.

Oh, why stop there – what’s wrong with tattooing their foreheads? The Daily Express would be sent into raptures over the idea. This morning its Sunday stablemate proclaims “The Conservatives’ common-sense revolution” above a headline shouting: “A UK border that works!”

Apparently this is a digital border that will prevent entry into the country all those people considered undesirable by the Daily Express – in other words, just about everyone.

Rudd came over all defensive after her clearly xenophobic plan stirred up a row, and she asked people not to brand her a “racist”. Well sorry, home secretary, but that’s just what this plan is. What’s more, beneath Theresa May’s pitch for the centre ground lies a nasty seam of intolerance. The growing clamour for a Hard Brexit from the right of the Tory party represents a mean lurch away from the cherished notion of a Britain that is open-minded and tolerant. Instead the result of the referendum is being hijacked as a reason to close down liberal Britain and put up a sign reading: “Bugger off – you’re not wanted here in Little England.”

Was this why we held a referendum, so that all the old nastiness would seep out of the woodwork; all the small-mindedness, all the suspicion of foreigners, all the blind bumbling around our own front garden after we have nailed the gate shut?

The vote is done and gone with, but it should be a starting point for a sensible way forward, and not a signal for a mad rush to a Hard Brexit. I am not even sure what that might be, and I reckon those who want it don’t really know either: they just like the sound of it. To misquote Bob Dylan, A Hard Brexit’s Gonna Fall. And the results won’t be pretty.

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