Immigration and the EU

Immigration is probably the biggest single reason that draws people to voting Leave in this Referendum. I personally have a more liberal viewpoint on immigration than many, but I accept this is a political difference. I see benefits in immigration but for some people, its a case of their job chances being under threat.

On these pages I am arguing from a practical standpoint rather than a political one. This may seem counter intuitive, but there is strong evidence that leaving the EU will not have quite the effect on immigration that advocates of Brexit are after. Let's see why.

The BREXIT line is that we want to have 'control of our borders'. Since we are not in the Schengen area, we do have control at the borders, but yes, the EU does influence how that control is exercised.

Who is coming to the UK?

We can classify people coming into this country into three groups.

  1. Economic Migrants from the EU - People exercising their EU right to free movement to work.
  2. Economic Migrants from the rest of the world.
  3. Refugees and asylum seekers.

Its item 1 on this list that the Brexit campaign has most in its sights. But free movement to work is something a post Brexit UK negotiating team might have to accept to get access to the free market - as do Norway and Switzerland. And without that access, there could be fewer jobs to go round the UK born population that is left

Also, free movemnet isn't fully understood in the UK - and it is applied differently here. Its in the EU rules that it is free movement to work. An EU member can ask citizens from other member states to leave if they are not self supporting within 3 months. That is what other EU countries do.

And don't forget that free movement is also a benefit that any UK citizen enjoys.

Oh, and EU immigration is less than half of our inward migration. Of the rest, economic migrants from non-EU countries is already under UK control, by the points based system which Nigel Farage calls for. It already exists.

Refugees are another matter. As a Liberal, I hope we can show ourselves to be a compassionate nation but it is probable that it is the pictures of refugees, particularly from the Syrian conflict but from other places too, that fuels the current concern about our borders.

Leaving the EU won't stop the numbers of people escaping to our continent from conflicts elsewhere. Nor will its stop our obligation as a wealthy nation from helping people in need. Stopping those conflicts has no simple solution, but it will be harder in a more fragmented world. BREXIT would be an act of fragmentation.