The freedom of movement in the EU was one of the key topics of debate in the referendum, often drawing out some very controversial opinions. One of the biggest jobs the current government is going to have to face in its term is the management and negotiation of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Negotiation is the key word, and it has to work both ways if there is to be any chance of resolving issues between the UK and the EU. Many Britons make full use of the freedom of movement we currently have, and indeed many industries in the UK rely heavily on migrant workers.
A Bit of Give and Take
It seems obvious in a way that in order to maintain some of the benefits of the EU we are going to need to step up and give a little back. However, Peter Lilley expects the UK to hold all the cards: to want to make our own immigration rules up and expect the EU to accept it. Surely that can’t be possible?
The demand for an Australian styled points system to be used would merely be an expansion of the rules currently used for non-EU migrants. The UK currently takes in as many, if not more migrants from outside the EU. Therefore, we cannot assume that making it more difficult for EU migrants to move to the UK is based solely on our ability to place a strict cap on applications. This promise was made by successive governments who all failed to point out that they didn’t really have any power to reduce immigration numbers.
And they still cannot guarantee that they will after Brexit.
Can we expect the EU to let the UK be allowed to take the “pick of the crop” of migrant workers and spit out the ones we deem “unsuitable”? Why should the EU tolerate the UK saying: “sorry, we only want the good workers sent to us: you lot can share the unskilled ones.”
Many small or medium businesses admit that they employ from EU because those workers are happy to accept minimum wage jobs, often because that is significantly more money than they can get in their own country. The employers therefore have lower overheads and can make more money in profits so that they can expand. In some cases it is the only way the employer can afford to pay a workforce.
Also, a lot of EU workers fill roles that Britons don’t want to do for minimum wage. This spurns on the attitude of “all those immigrants are taking our jobs” – a sensitive topic, given the number of unemployed people in the UK. Substantial research has been undertaken in this area and the only real truth is that the issue depends highly on the locality, type of job, and many other connecting issues such as housing, welfare, and so on.
So it is really hard to pinpoint the precise effects of immigration on the UK . You can’t simply separate it out from all the connecting issues such as housing, employment, education, health, and so on. However, considering that many immigrants work in those sectors, paying tax as a result, what we do know is they have a positive financial effect. Most of them also cannot even claim benefits, or make use of the NHS.
Moreover, a lot of people confuse the issue by trying to attach it to illegal workers: unhelpful because that is a separate issue entirely, and an illegal immigrant cannot work legally since they don’t have relevant paperwork. In which case, the crime is being committed by the employer, too.
Brexit: we can’t jump ship and still control the voyage
Can we really expect to be so double-demanding of the EU by expecting them to let us call all the shots? Negotiation has to be a two-way process, and if we slam the door on negotiations with regards to free movement, why should we expect the EU to be so open to us and our demands in terms of matters such as trade agreements?
Is it not somewhat arrogant to assume that the UK can simply walk away from the union and still expect to call all the shots? If we want to benefit from trade agreements, and benefit from British people being able to emigrate and travel freely, we can’t just decide when and where we make our choices when to engage with the Union.