Vince Cable calls for end to EU free movement

Vince Cable writes for this week’s New Statesman arguing for the end to the EU’s free movement of people.

He builds on the themes he initially set out on an article for this site just after the referendum – which turned out to be our most read article of 2016.

In the New Statesman he writes:

As a liberal economist, I welcome freer trade and globalisation in general; and as a political liberal I oppose attempts to fence people in. I naturally value the freedom to travel around Europe for business or pleasure with minimal restriction.

But I have serious doubts that EU free movement is tenable or even desirable. First, the freedom is not a universal right, but selective. It does not apply to Indians, Jamaicans, Americans or Australians. They face complex and often harsh visa restrictions. One uncomfortable feature of the referendum was the large Brexit vote among British Asians, many of whom resented the contrast between the restrictions they face and the welcome mat laid out for Poles and Romanians.

He goes on to argue that while there are benefits to immigration, they are not as conclusive as we would like to think for the country. He sets out what he thinks is the way forward:

The argument for free movement has become tactical: it is part of a package that also contains the wider economic benefits of the single market. Those benefits are real, which is why the government must prioritise single market access and shared regulation. Yet that may not be possible to reconcile with restrictions on movement. The second-best option is customs union status, essential for supply chain industries.

I do not see much upside in Brexit, but one is the opportunity for a more rational immigration policy. First, it will involve legitimising the position of EU nationals already here. It must involve a more sensible way of dealing with overseas students, who are not immigrants and benefit the UK. The permeability of the Irish border must lead to a united Ireland in Europe. And, not least, there can be a narrative in which control on labour movements is matched by control on capital – halting the takeovers that suffocate the innovative companies on which the country’s future depends.

I find his analysis profoundly depressing, particularly as he talks about the politics of free movement being “conclusively hostile.” I feel that we should be trying to change the weather on that rather than simply going along with the right wing media and politicians.

My instinct is for as much free movement as possible . The world is so much smaller now and people make connections and fall in love with people from all over the world. They should be free to make their homes wherever suits them. Where I agree with Vince is that our immigration system is way too harsh. I’ve seen too many examples where families have been split up because one partner isn’t allowed to come into this country. One of the worst things we agreed to in the coalition was the income requirement for spouses to enter the country which discriminates against women and the less well-off.

Vince was one of the most liberal voices in the coalition government on immigration (and lots of other things, too). He spent his five years in office fighting with Theresa May on things like post study work visas and overseas students. He also fought the Tories to crack down on employers who didn’t pay the minimum wage. He is making these arguments from a good place with a good reputation.

Vince is one of the Liberal Democrats I respect most. I disagree with him on this, though. There are so many other solutions to the problems he outlines. The first thing would be to construct an immigration system that treats people like human beings. The second would be to ensure that workers are not exploited.  The third would be to make sure that where we need more houses, schools and hospitals, we build more houses, schools and hospitals.

The big argument we need to win is about the need for the state to do this stuff. Since Thatcher, paying taxes has been something to be undertaken only with extreme reluctance.  Living in a civilised society where citizens are well looked after costs money. The benefits of happy, productive, healthy citizens are clear. So let’s set out what we could achieve with a more powerful state. The small-state right wing consensus which has dominated our politics for four decades has damaged us. It’s time to make a stand and show that we can have a fairer, more equal and open country which welcomes those who move here to contribute.  That will do much more to re-engage those who feel that politics and government has nothing to offer them.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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159 Comments

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Jan '17 - 11:27am

    From that NS article linked to in the first paragraph:

    ‘For the receiving country, the benefits are less obvious: a bigger economy but not necessarily a richer one. Immigrants may be more productive than indigenous workers but they have dependents too. They are usually young people and therefore likely to be more flexible, more mobile and more likely to work contributing more in tax than they take out in benefits and subsidised services. But they grow older so these benefits are non-recurring.

    There are also distributional effects. Critics complain that immigrant workers depress wages and reduce job opportunities for natives.’

    That seems to me to be spot on. Free movement of labour is one thing, an open-ended right of establishment is quite another. If the argument for free movement rests on economic contributions one the surely that implies making sure that the people involved are actually making a net economic contribution. There are of course wider arguments here, I don’t think anyone serious would disagree. But those really are of no consolation to the losers and no amount of good will changes that. And I think that it is critical to see, as Vince does, that those who see themselves as losers include immigrants.

    To this, I think, must be added the sense that free movement in practice lacks reciprocity. Let’s be honest. If 2+m young UK unemployed/underemployed could all head to the A8 tomorrow for wages/in-work welfare etc then we’d just have had a 95% in vote. Just glossing over the asymmetry helps no one.

    So while I don’t agree with everything Vince says here I do suggest that everyone reads and thinks about that article. It’s an interesting set of thoughts.

  • Geoff Hinkley 6th Jan '17 - 11:35am

    It’s a tricky one. A lot of people, not necessarily for good reasons, want lower immigration. It isn’t a fringe view and if we want to live up to the Democrat part of our name we need to acknowledge the concerns and desires of that constituency. Even if we don’t agree with them we need to be able to explain how LibDem politicians will be able to represent those views and what sort of compromise they’d be prepared to support.

  • Mass movement and very high rates of movement have an unacceptable impact on the recipient community. Immigration needs to be managed. Free movement is unmanaged movement and that is unacceptable.

  • Bill le Breton 6th Jan '17 - 11:51am

    Vince gets real – again.

  • Peter is absolutely right immigration needs to be managed. It’s no good saying that the answer is to build more houses, schools, hospitals etc, when we can’t build enough for the people that are already here. I love the idea of freedom of movement, but eventually it just leads to chaos.

  • paul barker 6th Jan '17 - 12:15pm

    No. I should say that I never got the worship of Cable as some sort of sage. For some time now he has been drifting away from Liberal values but this marks a decisive break. The Party should make clear that he doesnt speak for us.

  • Danica Evans 6th Jan '17 - 12:22pm

    I’m sorry but FoM in an EU that contains such vastly unequal economies as the UK and Romania is untenable. Everything was fine before the enlargement to the East, that took in countries with a total population over 100million people with poor economies. The migration is now too unequal, coupled with the fact that the NHS and our housing and welfare systems are non-contributory (unlike continental countries) enough is enough. Cable has realised and says in his article: FoM is not suitable for the UK, the beneficiaries are migrants and employers and the losers are the British people.

  • The basic problem is that mass immigration is just not popular with locals. All the talk of winners and losers tends to ignore the reality that around 78% of the UK’s population (in other words virtually everyone) wants lower immigration. Personally. I don’t think free movement is the problem as such. I think it’s really down to a lax attitude to none EU immigration and the notion of citizenship for EU workers.
    Vince’s argument ignores the reality that freedom of movement is tied to the idea of the EU as a state and is about citizenship of the EU. Outside of the EU you can accept the principle of free movement, but tighten up the rules around the status of UK nationality.

  • @Paul Barker

    “The Party should make clear that he doesnt speak for us.”

    Is that a fair thing to say. The party is supposed to be a broad church and support a range of views and positions.
    Over 30% of Libdem voters, Voted for Brexit and I would go as far to say that voters can also be regarded as supporters, even if that support is only temporary.
    It would be fair to say that some of those libdem supporters who voted for brexit would have done so because they were against free movement of people.
    Are these supporters of the party not entitled to have someone official and as well respected as Vince Cable in the party who speaks for them?

    Very odd direction the party is taking if it refuses to give a voice to certain fractions of the party

  • Martin Land 6th Jan '17 - 12:45pm

    My problem is that Freedom of Movement within the EU is in practical terms an unequal burden on the UK. But that’s our fault!
    Firstly, our educational system fails to meet the requirements of employers. It’s simply easier to employ someone from elsewhere in the EU. Efforts have been made to improve apprenticeships, but the Tories have often made such schemes little more than an opportunity for their buddies to pay well below the minimum wage.
    Secondly we have totally failed to prepare our people for living in a global economy. Adult education and re-education opportunities are a joke. Languages are so poorly taught in our schools.
    Finally, because of the fact that our own citizens are so poorly trained, EU citizens can walk in to jobs here that they simply can’t walk into in other higher income EU nations. To be a waiter or hairdresser in France requires a two year period of apprenticeship and a series of exams including a four hour exam in French. This acts as a brake on immigration and ensures higher standards at the same time.

  • I think the Lib Dems are morphing (have morphed?) into the UKIP of the left – worse, aside from Norman Lamb (NHS, Mental health, PrEP) and Greg Mulholland (Beer) they don’t seem to be asking any of the questions intervening in their own orthodoxies.

    What Vince has stated is common sense. There are too many people chasing too few jobs and the Lib Dems have to be less naive about what employers want to get away with.

    Also there are different drivers for different migrants. Eastern Europeans, who tend to be younger and fit, tend to have the driver of buying up land and making a profit sending money back. Similarly, people from Southern Europe are fleeing economic terror of unemployment. Thus there’s the `systemic discrimination` of on the one hand British workers (particularly BME) are having their own economic sovereignty undermined and while they are bearing the responsibilities of this system Southern Europe isn’t facing up to their own financial responsibilities by unshackling themselves from the Euro.

    I don’t understand the open borders policy of the Lib Dems. It seems only open to one landmass and not others yet unable to grasp the problems that unplanned migration creates. It’s as if they are beholden to one type of internationalist orthodoxy based on `Europeanism` and that being a British citizen (of any ethnicity) is less advantageous than being a British citizen. That’s the perception that will hobble the Lib Dems in the future.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jan '17 - 12:46pm

    Freedom is movement is fine when the numbers travelling each way are approximately equal.

    It’s the highly asymmetrical nature of the movement, essentially caused by high levels of unemployment in many parts of the EU, which causes the problems.

    Our target should have been those high levels of unemployment. It’s probably too late now, but I would ask the question of why there was so little support for Greece in 2015 when they dared to challenge the absurdity of the EU requiring the repayment of ever increasing levels of debt when their economy was so depressed.

  • But the numbers travelling each way are not far off equal, aren’t they? We have about 2 million of our citizens resident in other EU countries and the same here – and people tend to spend a few years here and then go back. The people coming here tend to be younger and pay more taxes while those of ours in the EU include a lot of people who are retired.

  • Mark Goodrich 6th Jan '17 - 12:54pm

    Most of these comments seem to miss the point. We can argue for ever about whether or not restricting immigration from the EU is sensible or not (and realistically there are some advantages and disavantages on both sides) but on any view, it is only available in a hard Brexit situation. That would have serious and negative economic effects (and polling shows that even those most keen on restricting immigration are not prepared to pay very much to do so).

    The irony is that, within the EU, there is probably some scope for agreeing limited restrictions but there is simply no way that the UK can be in the single market outside of the EU and restrict freedom of movement. It is simply and unsurprisingly a non-negotiable position.

    If the EU negotiators were really crafty, they would dangle a carrot of some immigration restrictions if the UK remained within the EU. That would really put the Tories in a dilemma.

  • Arnold Kiel 6th Jan '17 - 12:57pm

    Caron, you are right and Vince Cable is wrong.

    The connection between free movement and the single market is not a tactical construct, but the former is a logical and constituent component of the latter. It achieves exactly what was intended: an efficient platform for beneficial specialization where outputs (products and services) and inputs (capital and labor) flow to where they are consumed the most and employed best, respectively. The Romanians and Poles, e.g. do valuable work here efficiently, and support their countries with remittances until opportunities at home improve. The city, conversely, provides highly skilled and expensive financial services to Polish and Romanian governments, institutions, and individuals. Unlike manual labor, they are being provided remotely, not requiring migration.

    Why is it that the Government speaks only about freedom of movement from the EU, not the bigger non-EU immigration figures, which alone exceed its overall target by almost 100%? Every single non-EU immigrant needs a visa, and we know how brutally Theresa May has been trying to cut these numbers for more than 6 years. I am not blaming her for missing an unrealistic target; there must be overwhelming economic forces behind this phenomenon, if it persists on her watch. Therefore it will continue. Non-EU immigration feeds itself from a growing pool of 4-5 billion people.

    The EU, on the other hand, is a shrinking pool of 440 million (without UK) people, maybe 20 million of which are low skilled from the poorer countries. The immigration of unskilled southern and eastern European labor to the UK will therefore come down. In contrast to non-EU Immigration, this flow may well reverse in the future as Southern Europe is recovering. Strong economic forces are also driving this migration and no prudent Government will cut it by much.

    If one nevertheless wants to abolish freedom of movement, one must accept tedious and expensive control mechanisms for all Europeans present in or travelling to the UK, and the EU will have to do the same with UK citizens. Is this and loosing many EU-integration benefits, especially single market membership, a price worth paying for either a very limited or a very costly reduction in immigration?

  • Tony Greaves 6th Jan '17 - 1:02pm

    As the party has pointed out, Mr Cable does not speak for the party. But if we start to compromise on this kind of thing we may as well pack in. It is however an odd proposal for someone who wants to stay in the Single Market – it’s not a compromise with the EU but the opposite!

  • May I draw your attention to the LibDem article… “Wow, Labour really are pandering to UKIP, aren’t they?”…..By The Voice | Sat 28th March 2015 – 8:11 pm…

    That was the LDV response to Labour’s “Control on Immigration” coffee mug…I trust Caron, and others might read some of the comments on such a ‘disgraceful’ notion as controlling free movement…

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Jan '17 - 1:12pm
  • “Caron – `But the numbers travelling each way are not far off equal, aren’t they? We have about 2 million of our citizens resident in other EU countries and the same here – and people tend to spend a few years here and then go back. The people coming here tend to be younger and pay more taxes while those of ours in the EU include a lot of people who are retired.`

    You just don’t get it. Why are they here? It’s mainly to escape economic hardships in their own countries yet there is no impact assessment on how that effects the economic sovereignty of British people living in the UK. Most British people who live overseas are in general financially self-dependent. I find this worshipping of the EU baffling.

    If the EU wants to cut off its nose to spite its face so be it. The issues are the issues – we are a top ten global economy and the free movement is ECONOMICALLY assymetrical. Yes we can reform Free Movement of Labour (a step change for Lib Dems!).

    To say that because we are where we are we have to just stick to the status quo is odd coming from Liberal Democrats.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Jan '17 - 1:17pm

    Caron Lindsay – ‘But the numbers travelling each way are not far off equal, aren’t they? We have about 2 million of our citizens resident in other EU countries and the same here – and people tend to spend a few years here and then go back. The people coming here tend to be younger and pay more taxes while those of ours in the EU include a lot of people who are retired.’

    I’ve seen a few estimates, the one I trust most is on the BBC website here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-uk-leaves-the-eu-36745584

    It says The UK has a population of 63.7 million, of which 5.3 million (8%) are non-British, and just over half of those – 2.9 million (5%) – are from Europe.

    Just under 1.2 million UK nationals live elsewhere in the EU.

    Inevitably the numbers will be volatile.

    On the rest of your post, surely that is one of Vince’s central points? That there may well be young people who may well contribute in net economic terms but a) that has a shelf-life (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25880373) and b) there is no guarantee that migration will be in that form into the future.

    But Caron, surely this goes wider than a numbers game. Why exactly should a young person struggling for housing and work see free movement as a reciprocal deal just because property-rich grannies can head to the Costas? What exactly is liberal about in-work benefits that act as a honeypot for migrants from some parts of the EU?

    What we do about all this is rather another question – but to my mind Vince seems to be raising the right issues.

  • Paul Pettinger 6th Jan '17 - 1:18pm

    The piece is rather incoherent, claiming ‘There is no great argument of liberal principle for free EU movement’ (ensuring the free movement of people and integration with the EU are both in the preamble) and casually calling for the reunification of Ireland. Vince’s piece is strategic poison for the Liberal Democrats and though it (as Caron’s notes) contracts Vince’s pro-immigration stance in Government, it seems a continuation of the centrist positioning that by May 2015 had turned the Party into a near irrelevance. Sad to see Vince inhibiting the rejuvenation of the Party.

  • That’s not to disparage the contribution they make. The economy needs expanding by productivity not mass migration. That MUST include currently under-employed and unemployed British people.

  • I’m a Lib Dem member and support Vince’s pragmatic view. We are a party in denial of the result, which is a shame. We need a ‘soft’ brexit, but that doesn’t mean staying in the EU.

    The party’s calls for a 2nd referendum are also disappointing. We never called for that during the campaign, so it is cynical to call for one once we lost.

  • @LJP

    ” Why exactly should a young person struggling for housing and work see free movement as a reciprocal deal just because property-rich grannies can head to the Costas? What exactly is liberal about in-work benefits that act as a honeypot for migrants from some parts of the EU?”
    Absolutely agree.

    I also fail to see why people are so obsessed with Europe and freedom of movement. The EU is not some utopia super state. It is a failed organisation that is blighting the lives of millions of people, especially the young unemployed.
    With some European countries with Youth Unemployment in excess of 40%, these people are not leaving their countries, families, communities etc. out of some Utopian Ideal of being able to live and work freely throughout Europe. They are doing so out of sheer desperation because there is little to no hope in their homelands.
    Forgive me but I see nothing Liberal about that.
    To see people so enslaved by poverty that their only option is to see families ripped apart, children growing up without a parent and only seeing Daddy once or twice a year if lucky because Dad has had to go off to another country to earn money to send home to his family. Dad living in Multiple Occupancy Housing in hideous conditions in order to save as much money as possible to send home to the wife and kids.
    That is the reality of what Europe has created and is set to get worse, But the EU will do nothing about it because the richer nations i.e Germany and the UK want the cheap migrant labour despite all the exploitation’s and damages that it does

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Jan '17 - 2:01pm

    Martin Land’s points about our education and training systems – at all levels – failing to meet employers’ needs, resulting in it being easier to employ better trained and motivated people from elsewhere are spot on.

    And unless this country pulls its socks up those problems will still be around when the country leaves – if ever – the EU.

  • You may find Vince repulsive, but he is right. Credit to him for changing his view when the fundamentals change, – especially when he will have known the onslaught he is in for from the massed EU Panglossians (who have had many years to argue for a more realistic relationship between the UK and the EU but never did and quite possibly still don’t see what the problem was/is) – QED.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Jan '17 - 2:19pm

    Nonconformistradical – OK, but while we are all pulling our socks up can we have a look at the effects of in-work benefits and how they intersect with free movement too?

    See here for example:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11249200/A-just-way-to-manage-migration.html

    ‘Unlike the vast majority of EU countries, the UK makes in-work benefits – tax credits, social housing and access to the NHS – immediately available to EU migrants. In contrast to out-of-work benefits, EU migrants are marginally more likely to claim in-work benefits. EU migrants make up 5.56 per cent of the UK workforce, but families with at least one EU migrant make up 7.7 per cent of in-work tax credit claims.

    The UK’s in-work benefit system effectively acts as a sort of “taxpayer-backed subsidy” for European workers to perform low-paid jobs here. In some cases, take-home pay is topped up by almost two-thirds. In many cases, it pays to go from an average-paid job elsewhere in the EU to a minimum-wage job in the UK.’

    Again, what we do about this is another question and one we should ask, but let’s at least not ignore it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Jan '17 - 2:31pm

    As a patriotic ,concerned, British born and bred citizen, I agree with Vince completely in policy here if not in tone . We are too tolerant of that which intolerable now. The whole point of free labour, has become free-for-all movement ,of sometimes terrific ,but often, desperate, people ,exploited on low wages. They do not take peoples jobs . They do drain our services because we do not have a market or social market system. In countries that rely on health insurance or social health , new residents are not in the same queue for services in healthcare. All the necessity of market need for staff from other countries is as nothing compared to the increases in line for services.This could be rectified by government adopting supply and demand as its norm . But when even left wing Liberals call any such import of economic understanding into public sector reform, all Orange book hellish debate ensues . This land is uniquely naive and tolerant sometimes, for a major country , regularly , and has added policies in the public realm accordingly.

    However , as the son ,of an immigrant father from Italy , a half Irish mother ,and the husband of a wife of a very interesting mix of American , Italian ,Polish , origins I strongly agree with Caron on the appalling sign up of the coalition on spouses income .It was done by Liberals and Conservatives pro the EU , and is why we must not be so pro it that we discriminate against those from countries with another more important connection to ours. Love ! Anything else is secondary.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Jan '17 - 2:41pm

    Mark

    I was hoping that Caron’s comments you criticised meant freedom of those who fall in love with others from different countries, they having the right to settle . If she means that you are too harsh on that point . If she means everyone any time anywhere you are too kind !

  • James 1:16
    “the economic sovereignty of British people living in the UK.”
    Which takes a big dent from the USA (51st state and all that )
    “Most British people who live overseas are in general financially self-dependent.”
    Hooray Henrys eh? Come 5:30 am my alarm clock rings and I get up for work as do large numbers of other British people who work overseas. Then again I work with Americans!
    The recently set up Asean Economic Community has freedom of movement for skilled labour.

  • @Manfarang try doing that in insecure employment as I’ve just done working for just above national minimum wage in the UK. I was working for an American company. Most people living overseas are retired villa owners.

  • Lorenzo
    Love reign o’er me

  • paul barker 6th Jan '17 - 3:27pm

    There have been a specific series of problems with particular groups of immigrants in some, small areas but as far as I know they have overwhelmingly involved people who came from outside Europe & have been settled here for Decades. My experience of Poles, for example is that they are generally polite, hard-working & well-behaved. They dont seem to want to all live together, avoiding the real problems caused by social & cultural ghettoisation.
    One root cause for the Leave Revolt is the cover Brexit gives for Racism to go public after a long period when it has been seen as embarassing & deeply unhip. The Poles could have been designed as a scapegoat being White & mostly Christian. The Racist can now claim to be unprejudiced because they dislike Poles as much as Moslems or Blacks. Its the otherness that counts.
    Sorry this comment was too long & before anyone says it : No I dont think Cable is a Racist, just confused.

  • Mark
    “In practice it means the countries let in only those they want to.”
    Actually not, there are millions of unskilled migrants in Thailand and Malaysia (from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) to the extent while the authorities round up some others are given employment passes. These migrants cross the borders or take a boat.
    Thailand would have lower economic growth with out them.

  • Let us illustrate the infrastructure needs of say, 150,000 migrants arriving in say, East Anglia. The UK average people per house is 2.2. That is another 68,000 homes, more than twice the combined target of the new garden towns announced recently.

    Then, according to the OECD, we need 5 new hospitals and 105 new GPs according to the Nuffield Trust.

    You can make your own assumptions about schools, social services, benefits, etc. Bear in mind that it usually takes decades to bring housing and hospital developments on stream.

  • Just to clarify some statistics. There are approx 8.2 million foreign born individuals in the U.K. Ignoring the small number of those who were British (e.g. born to British parents who were living abroad), then we find that roughly 5.2 million were born in non-EU countries and 3 million were born in EU countries. A sizeable chunk of that 3 million pre-date either our accession to the ECs/EU (they arrived here in the 50s or 60s) or the accession of their countries to the ECs/EU. Unlike the non-EU born people though, who have become British citizens in very many cases, up until now, the EU born ones have not needed to naturalise and by and large seem to have opted to save themselves the considerable expense of doing so.

    Likewise it should be noted that EU immigration is heavily concentrated in the London area and that many regions that voted Leave have low levels of immigration from the EU (typically as low as 3% of the population with circa 5% being the upper limit).

    EU immigrants form a lower percentage of the population in the U.K. than in 9 of the other EU member states. In fact, only one of our immediate neighbours (in NW Europe) has a lower percentage from the rest of the EU than we do.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Jan '17 - 4:21pm

    The income requirement for spouses that Caron mentions is an absolute disgrace. Why is my brother’s wife being asked for years of payslips for her to get a British passport? Why does it matter if she has had a few months off work?

    It’s good to see the Dutch woman has been told she can stay, but who has let the Home Office get into such a mess? Theresa May was in charge of it for years.

    On Vince’s article, I generally agree for people who have no connections to the UK or skills/money we need, but it shouldn’t be abused.

    Where Vince confuses me is when he says brexit “must” lead to a united Ireland. There’s nothing “must” about Northern Ireland unless people want to risk the return of loyalist paramilitaries and a boosted dissident IRA.

  • @Peter
    “Let us illustrate the infrastructure needs of say, 150,000 migrants”

    Excellent post Peter and agree entirely.

    For decades politicians and governments have gotten away with claiming that Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out.
    The only reason that they have been able to make such claims is because the infrastructure required to support the increase in population has not been increased.
    Had we built the Houses, Hospitals, Schools, Doctors Surgeries and employed the etc Doctors, Nurses, Teachers and other public sector employee’s, they would never be able to make such a claim.

    Uncontrolled Immigration, especially unskilled immigration simply can not continue, we do not have the infrastructure or the finances to support it.

  • Matt (Bristol) 6th Jan '17 - 4:37pm

    Caron, can I ask if the paragraph beginning “I do much see much upside in Brexit” is yours or Vince’s? I’m not clear from context whether there is an error in the formatting of the quotes. Your authorial voice seems to start in the next para.

  • Paul,
    the midlands tended to have a high proportion of migrants and more leave voters. I think what the figure could be showing is that in areas where cities have witnessed high levels of immigration the suburbs tend to vote leave which to an extent may reflect displacement and what some people call white flight.
    To be honest, I think where votes are is pretty irrelevant and that the main point is really that around 75-78% of population want lower immigration, with maybe 20% or so thinking the levels are about right and only 3-5% thinking the numbers are too low. Mass immigration is just unpopular and has been for decades.

  • @Matt – Thank you for your kind words. Your point about unskilled migrants is very important. These people are more likely to to live off the taxpayer and very unlikely to pay tax.

  • @Caron
    “But the numbers travelling each way are not far off equal, aren’t they? We have about 2 million of our citizens resident in other EU countries and the same here.”

    No – it’s more like 3.2 million EU citizens living here, with 1.2 million Brits living in the EU. An imbalance of 2 million. See :-

    https://fullfact.org/immigration/eu-migration-and-uk/

    The idea that the numbers are roughly equal comes from some official UK government figures which have the twin disadvantage of (a) now being years out of date, and (b) not being very accurate in the first place, since they used wildly different criteria to define the inflows and outflows. All this has been well exposed by the Oxford Migration Observatory for a long time now. There was really no excuse for the Remain campaign to keep using those figures as recently as last June.

  • Colin Paine 6th Jan '17 - 5:13pm

    Sorry Vince, we are in a cultural battle and this sends out the wrong signals, whatever the subtleties of your argument. Let’s leave the awkward triangulation to Labour on this issue, we should be making a clear case for the benefits of free movement and bringing that position to any future governing coalition, rather than conceding on it up front.

  • @paul barker
    When people from other parties say they disagree with free movement, they are instantly labelled “anti-immigration” – a good example being Paul Barker’s comments about Gerard Coyne the other day.

    When senior Lib Dems say this kind of thing, they seem to suffer no worse admonishment than being told they are confused or misguided.

  • jedibeeftrix 6th Jan '17 - 6:04pm

    @ Caron – “The permeability of the Irish border must lead to a united Ireland in Europe.”

    Excuse me! Would you like to expand on that desire, please?

  • To cut across the attempts by some here, to resurrect the racist card [yet again!], ..I should point out that a great many Leave voters in many northern towns, were themselves from the Asian communities that reside there. It won’t be the first time I’ve heard the throw-away comment “ too many bloody East Europeans”, coming from a muslim source.?

    I don’t know how that fits in with the,.. ‘Leavers are racists’ narrative, but I’m at least pleased to see the likes of Vince Cable, coming around to a more rational and pragmatic view of the community strains that are all too inherent in unfettered and unmanaged immigration, and the consequential, resources per capita dilemma, we all face.

    At a bare minimum,.. Vince gives me a glimmer of hope that liberalism, can indeed, accommodate reality.

  • I have a lovely Latvian lady who does gardening jobs for me, only once in the 6 years she has been in the UK has someone been racist towards her. She thinks the country is lovely in that respect, but she had to leave her own country because – in her words – Latvia is full of bloody Russians. Does that make her racist? I honestly don’t know. Does thinking you should look after your own first make you racist? Again I don’t know. However, surely there has to be a limit to the amount of unskilled economic immigrants we let in.

  • Another problem for Lib Dems on this issue is that they don’t have an immigration policy. So far the Tories/UKIP haven’t touched them preferring to not bring attention to them. Once they keep winning local byelections it will only take a quick-witted opposition activist to hoover up leave votes by using the argument that the party’s policy is open borders and that will mean `xxx more people living in yyy ward in ten years (let’s say 1000) with building on www piece of green belt` to shift non-LD turnout up.

    Perhaps it should be a requirement of all politicians that support free movement to say a) why they support it b) what jobs will new migrants do c) where will the housing be built and d) h how will extra public services be funded?

  • Free movement of people is a fantastic opportunity for those who simply otherwise wouldn’t have it considering the expense and complications of Home Office law. It might be argued that extending free movement to Australians, Indians and other nationalities stated would mainly benefit those already fairly well off and intelligent who do not necessarily struggle under the current system.

    There are issues – cutting services to the bone has combined with increasing numbers of people to make a lot of those barely surviving feeling worse off – but I don’t think these are answered well by Cable seemingly reaching out to the right wing opinion. Cable speaks about a potential upside in a more rational immigration policy and if there are going to be some imposed tweaks, risky business, on the principle then perhaps that could be now linking immigration numbers to investment and/or identifying needs in certain areas (there was a lot of talk about fantastic European GPs and nurses but we shouldn’t forget the towns and communities crying out for an increased health service) and directing those entering the country to those areas for a certain period, say 6 months, before then allowing access to full free-movement. Perhaps we could also say that UK citizens can exercise free movement within the UK so it is easier for them to bring in partner’s and loved ones.

  • Steve Comer 6th Jan '17 - 8:55pm

    Nobody seems to be querying the free movement of CAPITAL across nation state boundaries. Yet this is what is driving much of the movement of people.
    Businesses move resources and investment around to maximize profits and minimize the taxes paid, yet as soon as ordinary working people move across porous and often artificial national borders t becomes a problem!

    Double standards or the ultimate triumph of untrammeled free market thinking?

  • I think the EU itself should have been a little more flexible on free movement given the expansion of the EU from 6 to 27 countries. Everything needs to evolve to survive. I argued as much in an article for LDV last April entitled “It must be possible to be 100% pro-EU but still question how things are run” http://www.libdemvoice.org/it-must-be-possible-to-be-100-proeu-but-still-question-how-things-are-run-50267.html.

    With housing shortages, pressures on the NHS and overcrowding in the South East in particular, a slightly more pragmatic view might have been helpful. However, we should never forget that the UK has benefited tremendously from EU immigration from carers to caterers, agricultural workers and bus drivers so we owe much to our EU migrants. However, if we could have applied temporary quotas or something similar, the electorate might not have opted for Brexit. Now its too late.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jan '17 - 9:45pm

    @james “Another problem for Lib Dems on this issue is that they don’t have an immigration policy”
    Actually, Lib Dem policy on immigration sounds a lot less liberal than you might expect from the ‘holier than thou’ impression given by many writers on this site. How about, “We’ll ensure people can speak English and are willing to work. We’ll ensure that migrants, including from the EU, come to work or study, not to claim benefits. And when it’s time for them to leave, we will make sure they return home.”.

  • Andrew McCaig 6th Jan '17 - 9:51pm

    A Single Market without free movement of labour is not a Single Market.. I would have thought that was self-evident..

    Vince allows himself the luxury of doing away with the Single Market (about as far from Party Policy as it is possible to get right now) without saying anything about what he would put in its place. Since virtually everything else in his article is couched as regret about Brexit, this position seems daft in the extreme. The argument about freedom of movement not applying to non-Euopean people is particularly specious. They are not in the Single Market.
    When we do leave the EU I predict that net migration will not change much because we have set up our economy in such a way that losing all those immigrant workers would be a disaster. However in an attempt to meet her unrealistic targets St Theresa will bear down even more on the students and spouses that Vince wishes to defend..
    Anyway, thankyou very much for a most unhelpful point of view at this juncture.

  • Christian de Vartava 6th Jan '17 - 10:03pm

    This statement of M. Vince shows how much liberalism in this world has to go. If liberals start to pledge for a limitation of freedom of movement what will the conservatives do, pledge for the freedom to think? Appaling. Nobody contests that there are serious immigration issues, but this is not the way to go about it. Very disappointing from a LB leader of the calibre of M. Vince, starting with the fact that if he suggest this then it means that he does not have any clever solutions to solve the said issues. Let us please find solutions which fit with the base principles of liberalism.

  • Vince is wrong and it is quite disturbing that he is so very wrong. Freedom of movement is essentially a very liberal idea. Restrictions on it are not. Are we liberals or not ? Do we accept restrictions because it’s politically expedient to do so ? I very much hope not.

    I still don’t understand why there are so many people contributing to this site who clearly aren’t Liberal Democrats. The heading says “The most-read independent website by and for Lib Dem supporters.”. There are clearly people on this thread who aren’t supporters.

  • J KINGSBURY 6th Jan '17 - 10:21pm

    Freedom of movement should stay. I can’t believe you all sold out.

  • Just because mass immigration is unpopular, doesn’t make it wrong. That is the route to populism at least. If you support a particular view that is deeply unpopular, you don’t change it just because of that.

  • Most countries in the world trade with each other without having free movement. It is not an intrinsic requirement for a custom union or single market. It is part of the EU dream of being a single country.

    The free movement of capital causes problems too, such as large corporations avoiding paying tax in the country where they sell their goods.

  • To those who say, we didn’t support a 2nd referendum before the first one, my response is a) We supported a referendum that clearly defined the destination, but it wasn’t a high profile campaigning point then. b) We’re not supporting a 2nd referendum on the same question. What we are supporting is a referendum on the destination. Those on here who say we’re undemocratic, how can it be undemocratic to give the people a chance to vote on the destination ? Those who say we’re being undemocratic sound more like Kippers to me…….

  • Peter – Are you a Liberal Democrat member or supporter ?

  • “It is part of the EU dream of being a single country.” I despair.

  • I didn’t argue about whether countries can trade without free movement. They may be able to or not. My argument is just on the sole idea that free movement is a very liberal idea and restrictions on it are not.

  • `This statement of M. Vince shows how much liberalism in this world has to go. If liberals start to pledge for a limitation of freedom of movement what will the conservatives do, pledge for the freedom to think? ` They seem to have freedom of thought in Liberal Canada. Still, this secular faith in the EU and freedom of movement of labour is quite touching if politically cack-handed and unsustainable.

    `When we do leave the EU I predict that net migration will not change much because we have set up our economy in such a way that losing all those immigrant workers would be a disaster.` That’s the crux of the problem – an impractical regressive eurocentric economic superstructure will over time require reconfiguring so that it works for everyone in the UK rather than those at the top.

    `We’ll ensure people can speak English and are willing to work. We’ll ensure that migrants, including from the EU, come to work or study, not to claim benefits. And when it’s time for them to leave, we will make sure they return home.”.` Usual fudge from a party that is terrified of working through its own open borders world view. Sort of tack to the left tack to the right that was a reasonable policy a few years ago. Unfortunately the British people have chosen to reject the old view on migration and want a conversation as how to include everyone in a globalised economy and for ministers and opposition parties to be forthright about their view on migration and what being a British worker means in terms of rights and responsiblities. The point is that there is very little if any need for more unskilled migration that is stunting the development of a higher productive economy.

  • @Tim Hill
    You are probably referring to me. I was a lib Dem voter. I rarely comment here. When I think that a particular policy is daft, I offer an alternative view or constructive criticism. If I am not welcome, I shall stop visiting.

    There is sometimes a danger that this site becomes a mutual admiration society of people congratulating each other on their progressive liberalism.

    Honest debate makes the site more popular and probably stimulates better understanding of the subjects.

  • Steve Comer,
    No one has been asked about free movement of capital. But I think you’re sort of right. It all flows together However, I think the problem with free movement or mass immigration if you prefer is that its advocates tend to see the cultural psychological aspects as somehow less real and logical than the economics. Personally, I think all you really end up doing is romanticising change for the sake of change and seeing novelty as the same as progress. To put it bluntly. I’m not convinced that Eastern Europeans or the French or Germans or Muslims or Jewish people (I have Jewish roots) or Hindus or who ever is really is anymore progressive than white English people or anyone else.

  • It is also a psychologically divergent device that ignores the fact that most casual brexit voters don’t care if people come for holidays, or a Latvian works for three weeks in a family’s Latvian restaurant while visiting London. The big sticking point is unskilled migration that is stunting the terms and conditions, training opportunities and pay of British workers.

  • Peter – I’m just confused when the site heading says “The most-read independent website by and for Lib Dem supporters” when you clearly aren’t any more. If it is an open blog, open to anyone then fine, but that isn’t what the heading says. It’s not just you. And the idea that if it is actually just for supporters, we’d just be self-congratulating each other, just shows a lack of knowledge of what we’re actually like 🙂

  • PS I’m sure “james” knows what he’s trying to say, but I certainly don’t. Less is more 🙂

  • @Andrew McCaig
    “When we do leave the EU I predict that net migration will not change much because we have set up our economy in such a way that losing all those immigrant workers would be a disaster. “
    Actually after we leave the EU we can have a sensible immigration policy that is good for the UK and more importantly for its citizens, freeing up limited resources and increasing wages.
    With proper border controls that keeps track of people entering and leaving. An Immigration policy that works on points based system so companies are still able to access skilled migrants with skills we need when there is a shortage.
    I do not buy in to the myth that famers and factories will go under if they are unable to have access to migrant workers as UK citizens refuse to do this work. Britain was always a nation of factory workers in the past before the influx of cheap EU migrant labour. It was the hard work of British Factory workers that help made some of the biggest household brands around today. Besides if there was a shortage, we would be able to issue temporary seasonal working holiday visa’s for people to come and work on a temporary basis, the difference being they will not have an entitlement to social housing or welfare. It’s a system that works well in Australia and hundreds of thousands of Brits do it each year on backpacking holidays down under doing seasonal work on farms etc., It is a fantastic way to travel earn and learn culture at the same time.

  • matt – Are you a Liberal Democrat member or supporter ? You certainly don’t sound like one.

  • On the wider issue of Vince’s article, one thing that interests me is why has he done it ? Is he trying to change or influence party policy ? I would suggest an article in the New Statesman is not most effective way of doing that. Or is there some ulterior and/or negative motive ?

  • @Tim Hill

    I am a floating voter in the past between Labour and Libdem. When I lend my vote to a party that is me “supporting” that party, be it on a long term or temporary basis. I voted Libdem in 2010..
    Regardless this is a public forum and I as anyone else is entitled to post here as long as we adhere to the site rules and I will continue to do so.
    If LDV members want to cut off all voices except from those of their own kind , i think you will find the long road back to electoral success even more of a long drawn out struggle

  • Tim, do you think Vince sounds like one?
    Just asking.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jan '17 - 11:37pm

    In this important debate, I find most helpful Arnold Friel’s statement, that free movement of labour is ‘a logical and constituent component’ of the single market. But thanks to LJP for linking us to Open Europe’s proposal that national governments should limit EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits, which if Britain with its present granting of rapid and unusually extensive benefits to migrant workers undertook, it would most likely reduce numbers coming here. That seems to build on the limitation David Cameron negotiated, and might even be possible to obtain EU assent to, because as the article says, several other northern and western EU states have concerns about unlimited free movement.
    Steve Corner cites the movement of Capital across state boundaries as driving much of the movement of people, but surely, Steve, that is an irremediable consequence of globalisation? And Matt, I can’t accept your characterisation of the EU as a ‘failed organisation blighting the lives of millions of people especially the young unemployed’, because again globalisation and technology development worldwide are prompting mass movements of young people in search of work to successful capitalist economies.

  • @Katharine Pindar
    ” And Matt, I can’t accept your characterisation of the EU as a ‘failed organisation blighting the lives of millions of people especially the young unemployed’, because again globalisation and technology development worldwide are prompting mass movements of young people in search of work to successful capitalist economies.

    Well its a shame you can not accept the facts Katharine because the facts speak for themselves, have you looked at the youth unemployment figures for some European countries lately?
    Here they are https://www.statista.com/statistics/266228/youth-unemployment-rate-in-eu-countries/
    Greece 46.5%
    Spain 43.6%
    Italy 36.4%
    Croatia 29.7%
    Portugal 28.9 %
    Cyprus 26.8
    France 25.8
    Romania 20.4.

    If that is not a failed organisation blighting the lives of the young then i do not know what is.
    Do you really believe all these people coming to look for work in the UK is out of some EU freedom of movement Utopian Idealism or out of sheer desperation? Because if you think they are leaving their familes, friends and communities in order to come to the uk to work for minimum wage and they are leaving the dream, then wow, omg
    There is nothing Liberal about what is happening to these poor young men and women and families across Europe.

    The sooner we are out and others follow and soon as the Euro Currency collapses, the sooner these countries will be better placed to put their houses in order and improve the lives of millions of their young citizens who are being deeply failed by the EU

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jan '17 - 12:37am

    Tim Hill

    I am a member of this party , a party with a Liberal history going back two hundred years , to the Whigs ! The whole history of Liberalism in inumerable countries , going back to John Locke and via the greatest of them all John Stuart Mill, managed to promote internationalism . Liberal International, older than the UN, is seventy this year. And all that history until twenty or so years ago, not one Liberal party in one Liberal oriented region of this planet , equated the creed , realistic and idealistic , with free movement as a prerequisite . Free movement has nothing to do with free trade or free markets. It is fine when needed and possible , it need not be a permanent thing but can be flexible . More than anything it is meant to benefit big businesses , and it does .

    The time has come for social Liberalism to emphasise society before economy . And people at the heart of both. All people . Beginning with the needs of local communities in our country . That is no more racist than is Sir Vince , who has had two foreign born wives , and , like me , would see connections based on love as the first importance , and unlike me ,who would not have done so, should not have signed up to spousal incomes policies !

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jan '17 - 12:41am

    Hi, Matt, yes I have seen the figures, because you have cited them before in other threads and also used exactly the same vivid pictures of desperate people and families ‘ripped apart’. Only I haven’t commented before on that to me astonishing viewpoint. Taking a longer view, all these young citizens who naturally move to the more prosperous northern parts of the EU in search of work – I imagine, waved off with ‘God speed!’ by their parents, happy to see them fulfil their dreams – these young folk belong to an inter-state organisation which has not only ensured they never have to fight unlike their grandparents for their country, but also has assured them of decent working conditions and rights, and good protected environments, wherever they settle in the EU. I’m curious as to how you come by this particularly bleak view. But as for me, I do believe in free movement of people (and capital and services and goods) within this organisation, which with all its need for reform which I think will gradually be implemented is a wonderful achievement of these once-warring nations, and no wonder a magnet for less fortunate people in Asia and Africa. I understand Tim Hill’s frustration with all the negative views expressed here, but the EU will survive! Kind regards to you regardless of our different outlooks.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Jan '17 - 12:47am

    I have missed this discussion and am joining late (n.b. so i’ve not read through all the comments, sorry about that… maybe later)

    I think free of movement of labour was the correct call for the European union (and a it one was) where it has gone all a little wrong is when it developed into freedom of movement (when it isn’t a single country…. horse before the cart again).

    So I would support the idea of anyone who had a job offer to be able to move to take up the job. Added to that for jobs to be advertised EU-wide. Not that anyone could just move (although personally I don’t have anything against it.. my argument is simply on a pragmatic basis and ability to plan service requirements).

    Mass migrations of peoples from once economically poor area to other areas are no good for either area. For the region/area that 100,000’s t millions over a few years, how can anyone build enough schools, hospitals and upscale services to cope? For the areas that have the population drain (gernally younger people migrate) they suffer a brain drain and lose good talent that could develop the poorer areas economically.

    It is a double negative. Again it is solved if it is happening through a single unified country where capital and sources can be transferred from rich areas to poorer areas. The EU though is a half-way house between a single federated state and a collection of nations and seems unable to cope (I am not saying it couldn’t cope if it changed in the future).

    to surmise, personally no problem with freedom of movement. Practically it is beyond difficult to deal with the unintended consequences of this, at least in the short to medium term.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jan '17 - 1:58am

    ethicsgradient

    A sensible comment . I think what people seem to be doing here in response to Sir Vince and often, is pretending , or kidding themselves that a policy, idea, tendency , that is recent , is more integral , or older than it is.

    I see this on the left and right of the party . Adherents of a purer form of economic Liberalism seem to think it easy to jump back to a bygone age long ago .

    Adherents of a purer form of social Liberalism seem to think it easy to jump back to a bygone age not so long ago.

    Adherents of a purer form of international Liberalism are only trying to jump back a generation if believing freedom of movement in it’s current extent , is essential.

    I see no call for it in the Liberal parties of Latin America, Africa , Asia , or North America for those areas.

    It is a policy . It can come and go. Like the weather , it is value neutral , or variable , depending on the needs of whoever has those needs.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Jan '17 - 2:18am

    Lorenzo, to add to your point about policies being newer than they seem. I think the freedom of movement through the EU is so strongly adhered to because it would be a basic tenet of being a country; of which the EU aspires to be. It has become an article of faith, a true believer to the ‘project’.

  • ethicsgradient 7th Jan '17 - 2:45am

    Some good arguments made through comments. Most areas covered and debated.

    @Tim Hill,

    Hi, you seemed to be getting a little vexed that some posters aren’t lib dem supporters. I have only been posting a on here for a couple months and so am definitely a newbie. I am not a lib dem member or supporter but am a floating voter with libertarian views who hold most value to pragmatism.

    I think it is most useful for Lib Dems (indeed and political party) to hear voices and views of those who are not supporters. This has 3 benefits. 1) you get to hear the views of those voters who you need to win over/convince to vote for you if your vote share is to increase. 2) It helps to prevent an echo chamber/bubble effect occurring where all you hear is agreement and reinforcements of your own view point. 3) having differing views helps to refine, develop and sharpen arguments around different topics. think of Hegel’s dialectic of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. I find this most useful.

  • James 3:13
    “Most people living overseas are retired villa owners.”
    In Spain, France, and Italy because of EU freedom of movement. Not so many Brits living in Spain during Franco’s time.
    In the Middle East foreigners cannot buy property. Accommodation is provided by the employer.
    I worked in poorly paid dead end jobs in England. One of the reasons I went abroad to work. A liberal policy should be that all young people receive proper job training.

  • matt
    Youth unemployment is a problem in many countries
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/08/daily-chart-7

    Dismantling the EU will not solve the problem for the countries you mentioned.
    A return to protectionism as in the 1930s will only add to the problem.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Jan '17 - 6:44am

    @Matt

    You are listing European countries which are poorly governed, and the results are terrible. There are also European countries which are better governed, especially yours and mine. I am challenging your implication that the EU has produced poor government in these places. Their problems are distinct and much older than the EU or the EURO. The EU has not achieved enough in improving them, but I am sure you would not support the required direct intervention from Brussels. If you argue for the dissolution of the EU on that basis, you must be certain that these countries would be better off today had they never joined the EU. I am absolutely convinced that the opposite is true, and most European citizens still agree with me. I still hope you will not see the disastrous effects a hard Brexit would have on UK youth employment.

  • jedibeeftrix 7th Jan '17 - 7:06am

    @ Arnold – “You are listing European countries which are poorly governed, and the results are terrible”

    Yes, but… Freedom of movement undercuts the tax base of those countries, by leaving a reduced number of taxpayers. Often a mix of those with low skills/income and the most dependent on the liberal services of the state, which are now less available due to reduced state income.

    Now, a well functioning market economy will allow the most efficient allocation of labour by removing all barriers, and will accommodate for the list lost income in those regions that lose out from this efficient allocation of labour (and capital).

    We call this a transfer union, and the UK this occurs in the form of:

    a) National pay-bargaining which benefits poorer regions (teachers, nurses, etc)
    b) National social benefits more generous than poorer regions could afford alone (eg.housing benefit in glasgow)
    c) Targeted regional development grants/discounts to encourage business growth (objective 1 EU/WEFO funds)
    d) Additional infrastructure spending to support the local economy (the mainland-skye bridge)
    e) Operating national services hubs from depressed regions to boost wages (DVLA in swansea, etc)

    The Eurozone does not have this. It permits labour and capital to move freely to the most optimal locations with nothing to cushion the impact.

    In short, while those countries are poorly governed, the EU is exacerbating their problems rather than assisting.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Jan '17 - 7:27am

    Tim Hill, I have noticed that several times recently, in comments on at least three different articles, you have questioned someone’s right to comment on Lib Dem Voice, on the ground that they do not seem to be a Lib Dem member or supporter.
    It is true that Lib Dem Voice is intended first and foremost as a site for Lib Dem members and supporters. But many floating voters, or supporters of other parties, do read Lib Dem Voice and sometimes make comments. And it has always been understood that they are very welcome to do so. The only requirement for someone commenting on this site, whether or not they are a Lib Dem, is that their comments should be relevant to the topic, and should be reasonably polite. You yourself have not been polite in many of your unwelcoming and intolerant comments on many posts recently, to people who were themselves just politely expressing their views.
    We would not want this site to become an echo chamber, would we? We should welcome the opportunity to listen to people who are putting forward different viewpoints. After all, if someone often reads and comments on Lib Dem Voice, it probably means they are interested in liberal ideas, and may well, in time, become Lib Dem supporters, so we should welcome this opportunity to discuss our views with them.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Jan '17 - 7:40am

    @Matt concerning the British factory worker

    Do you mean brands like Austin or Morris? Let me remind you that British manufacturing was first destroyed by English management and unions and its modest renaissance since 1980 happened with foreign (mostly European) capital and management on a single-market premise. Manufacturing, unlike services, can provide high pay for low skills. You have now voted to destroy this again, but the UK is anyhow essentially a service-economy.

    In services the world is simple: high pay for high skills, low pay for low skills. On the high-skill side, the UK is a world champion which can only suffer from restrictions to movement.

    Low-skill services are the basis for the UK’s record employment at low-productivity of both, Britons and migrants today. Nobody is displaced.

    As manufacturing is peaking again (Brexit and robotics), your anti-free-movement stance can only be based on the premise that Britons will fill the low-skill service-jobs vacated by Europeans, and be paid better because of labour-supply constraints. I am not a labor-market specialist, but find this assumption daring. Every public statement of migrant employers says the opposite.

    Surely, it would be better if Romanians and Poles could live well at home with their families, but if they decide otherwise, the push- and pull-factors must be massive. If they come, they should be able to cope with the UK’s high cost of living and have healthcare; depriving them of in-work benefits would not benefit anybody.

    Seasonal farm workers go anyhow home after the season; they cannot afford the UK. Seasonal field-work visa is a superfluous principled nonsense.

  • Arnold.
    You’re ignoring the reality that mass immigration is too unpopular to be sustainable in a nationally decided democracy and there is more to politics than a narrow, highly debatable, economic argument.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Jan '17 - 8:08am

    Glenn,
    I believe it was made unpopular by extremists who used no arguments, so why should we give up? An economic argument is always debatable but never narrow: prosperity can always be translated in hungry children, uneducated talent, waiting and deaths in A&E, or freezing homeless.

  • Have you watched the BBC 3 documentary ‘Illegal Job Centre’? It’s only 12 minutes long and available on iPlayer. The documentary highlights the issue of Romanian immigrants who come to the UK seeking work.

  • Arnold.
    Mass immigration has never been popular with locals. The actual support figures have barely shifted since the late 1960s when about 80% of the population wanted lower immigration. It currently stands at about 78%. In other words public opinion after about 50 years of being told off and accused of being lead by extremists has shifted around 2%.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Jan '17 - 8:36am

    2jedibeeftrix,

    unemployed Romanians pay no taxes at home, but their remittances are a major source of Romanian income; social benefits are practically nonexistent there.

    The EU administers a massive intra-European transfer system of structural aid or in agriculture. It may not assist enough, but also national structural help is highly ineffective. How can you support your claim that the EU exacerbates poor government?

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Jan '17 - 8:44am

    @Glenn,
    well then…let’s hope they understand the price. Japan is developing care-roboters.

  • Arnold,
    Technological changes happen whether you have mass immigration or not. The implications are exactly the same either way.

  • Alison Le Cornu 7th Jan '17 - 10:11am

    It seems to me that Vince is demonstrating a highly pragmatic approach (contrasting against ideological). While ideally he would clearly prefer free movement around the EU, he states that he has serious doubts about whether this is tenable or desirable (the latter of which I read as him taking all the other pragmatic factors into account). His paragraph, quoted above, which reads:
    ‘The argument for free movement has become tactical: it is part of a package that also contains the wider economic benefits of the single market. Those benefits are real, which is why the government must prioritise single market access and shared regulation. Yet that may not be possible to reconcile with restrictions on movement. The second-best option is customs union status, essential for supply chain industries.’
    demonstrates a welcome and familiar pragmatism which suggests that if the ideal is not possible, then there is a compromise alternative.

    I support him in his pragmatism. His solution is not what I’d like or feel is best in an ideal world. But in times of such hotly competing interests, let’s go for the very best we can. (Oh dear. I’m sounding suspiciously like the PM! 🙁 )

  • @Tim Hill
    “Just because mass immigration is unpopular, doesn’t make it wrong. That is the route to populism at least.”

    It seems to me that when the people are given something they want and one approves of it, that is known as “democracy”. When the people are given something they want and one does not like it, that is dismissed as “populism”.

    Personally I’m ambivalent-to-positive about immigration, but I have two big problems with the typical Lib Dem approach to the topic, as typified by so many of the comments here.

    1. Whatever my own personal views on immigration, one thing I believe very strongly, which most Lib Dems (despite the Dems part of their name) do not seem to, is that whatever kind of immigration system we have, public consent for it is absolutely essential. Imposing policies that do not have the consent of people leads to the sort of wretched lurch to the extremes we have seen here and elsewhere.

    2. The most obvious purely practical objection to mass net immigration at the moment is that it is exacerbating what everyone agrees is a “housing crisis”. The typical Lib Dem response to this is to shrug complacently and say “well, the answer is to build more houses”. Perhaps it is. But if you have a boat with room for 1,000 people, and 2,000 people want to get on it, a bigger boat may well be the ideal solution, but if so then you should get the bigger boat first. The Lib Dem approach seems to be to let 2,000 people on the existing boat and then worry about getting a bigger boat later, even though all recent experience tells us that we are actually pretty useless at building bigger boats.

    If we can show that we are able to respond rapidly to increased demand for housing, schools, healthcare etc. then by all means let’s plan for future high net immigration or carry on with free movement – but it needs to be in that order.

  • John Barrett 7th Jan '17 - 10:53am

    Catherine Jane Crossland – well said, I could not agree more.

    I have been a party member for decades and elected at many levels yet I am still surprised at how quickly anyone who does not agree with the current “official party line” is often criticised as either not being a Liberal, or not being helpful or constructive in the debate.

    Many party policies have changed dramatically over the years and members who have been consistent in their views on topics such as free access to higher education, and many other issues, often find they are criticised for effectively sticking to their principles.

    We should encourage lively debate on this site from those with a range of views on any topic, in the hope that in the end the debate will help formulate ideas and policies with strengthen the Liberal Democrats.

    One thing which does not help the party is to simply follow the party line of the moment, which, as anyone who has been around for a while, will know is likely to change at some time in the future, or many times over the years.

    That is not to say we need to compromise on Liberal principles, but few policies ever fall into that category. Our policy on immigration was different in the past, is under debate now and will no doubt change in the future, depending on a number of factors including our relation with the EU.

    Let us encourage that debate here on Lib-Dem Voice from members, supporters and potential members and supporters.

  • David Evershed 7th Jan '17 - 10:54am

    I am surprised so many people who claim to be liberal support the UK’s current immigration laws which discriminate in favour of primarily white EU citizens and against primarily non white non EU citizens.

    Brexit gives the UK an opportunity to introduce non discriminatory immigration controls.

    Vince Cable is right and very much in line with liberal principles.

  • David
    “against primarily non white non EU citizens.”
    Citizens from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand?

  • Neil Sandison 7th Jan '17 - 11:07am

    Sorry Caron but i do agree with Vince Cables pragmatic view .I would also add any immigration policy should be underpinned by equality of oppertunity not special dispensation because you are an EU national .We should be an open liberal country that welcomes people regardless of point of origin to study ,work and contribute to both our economic and social economy . Labour is struggling hopelessly with this one but i believe the British public will support an immigration that can demonstrate its fairness and has the right checks and balances for example removing the 120,000 overseas students from the immigration figures and recording departures as well as entry .And yes overstaying the length your visas entitles you without good cause or breaking our laws does mean deportation .You should be able to apply for citizenship if you intend to stay permanantly because you have secure employment and a private home .I also agree employers should not be allowed to exploit migrants by paying under the minimum wage and should face very strict penalties if they do,

  • Nigel Jones 7th Jan '17 - 11:07am

    Alison,
    I like your pragmatism and similarly that of Vince Cable and I like what Cllr Mark Wright has written. I have two main points to make.
    One is the distinction between free movement of people and free movement of labour. Jobs can be open to anyone and (subject to certain other conditions) the best person should get the job and then where practicable, be able to move to take it up.
    Second point is consideration for the people in our communities; is it Liberal to force large immigration on a community against the well-being and feelings (however irrational) of those who already live there ? Encourage and provide for immigration is not the same as telling the indigenous people they MUST accept immigrants. If people have the chance to get to know those who come from foreign parts, mostly they accept them as fellow human beings, but this takes time and the present rate of immigration is clearly causing large numbers of people to turn against the presence of any ‘foreigners’. By restricting it and managing it better, we are much more likely to persuade people to accept that movement of people around the world is a good thing.

  • Antony Watts 7th Jan '17 - 11:17am

    I don’t believe at all in slicing and dicing people. If capital flows freely so must people, that is one of the fundamentals of the EU.

    But there can be rules for people seeking work in other countries and those who come but depend on our Social Security, without seeking work.

    The EU rules have recently been updated, I believe. They now allow people 6 months to find work.

    The rules are the things to discuss, not immigration itself.

    As far as non-EU is concerned, different rules can apply as these people are not in the Union, which has its own rules.

    Students should be stricky tracked to ensure that at the end of their study they meet immigration rules just like anyone else.

  • Antony Watts 7th Jan '17 - 11:23am

    As a compliment to my above post please see ec.europa.eu/immigration/who-does-what/more-information/explaining-the-rules-why-are-there-eu-rules-and-national-rules_en

    Where the current state of play in the EU and National Governments is given.

  • Martin Land 7th Jan '17 - 11:25am

    Can my colleagues please indulge me and allow me to comment further? I’ve already given my view of the role of education in this debate.
    However, there is yet another area in which our governments have failed people which has resulted in anti-immigrant views prevailing. This is in housing, simply in the failure to provide sufficient housing. This reduces mobility and gives the immigrants a perceived advantage in the labour market. Children still at home in their twenties and thirties are a constant reminder of the consequences of our failed housing problems and immigrants the inevitable and time honoured target.
    Liberal Democrats must commit to massive increases in housebuilding including appropriate accommodation for younger people. It’s easy enough to finance.
    This would be part of a plethora of measures which combined together would make freedom of movement more acceptable to the majority.

  • @Katharine Pindar “Taking a longer view, all these young citizens who naturally move to the more prosperous northern parts of the EU
    Naturally move? I am afraid we do see the world and especially the EU with very different eyes. To me there is nothing natural about it, having to almost flee your home town and country because your country is unable to provide the jobs required to support its citizens because it is a part of a EU single currency and monetary union with no control over it’s finances and is being dictated to by the EU
    “ I imagine, waved off with ‘God speed!’ by their parents, happy to see them fulfil their dreams”
    Really, I rather imagine it something like, I am sorry son, our pay has been cut to the bone, we can hardly manage ourselves, we simply cannot afford to have you live with us any longer and support you as well. Although I would dearly love you to stay close in our community I fear the support from the Government is not there for you to do this. You must pack all your belongings and go search for work in more affluent countries and hope one day this mess is sorted so you can come home. I imagine the wave of is full of tears and regrets and parents feeling as though they have failed their children.

    “I’m curious as to how you come by this particularly bleak view. “
    I come to this view, because the facts are staring us in the face, the statistics are there for all to see. I have heard the tragic stories of people leaving their home lands, families and support structures as they had no choice. I have had friends who have come over from Portugal and Poland and I have seen and heard for myself firsthand the circumstances they are in, its heartbreaking.
    It baffles me how Liberals claim this free movement of people is liberal and nothing else, and yet totally refuse to look into the reasons and circumstances behind these huge numbers of people desperately NEEDING to move because their home nations are being crushed under the EU, why are you not screaming about this and insisting that the EU does more for these young men and women and families in their home countries, instead of seeing them torn a part
    Please for gods sake open your eyes to what is really going on.
    If the most pro European parties are not going to even challenge the EU on these issues and fight for reforms, then there is no hope of the EU ever changing, can’t you see that

  • Ed Shepherd 7th Jan '17 - 11:50am

    I hear first-hand stories of people working in a giant warehouse and distribution centre near here. They are paid low wages, work long hours in tough conditions and have minimal job security. There is no career structure. They do not get paid enough to build up a pension or a deposit to buy a home or pay for education. None of them gets much time or money to train for a better job. Some of them are Briitish. Some of them have travelled from Eastern Europe. Some of them from Africa. I am not surprised that a newspaper report today is about a prediction of dangerous instabiilty in the near future.

  • jedibeeftrix 7th Jan '17 - 11:56am

    @ Arnold – “unemployed Romanians pay no taxes at home, but their remittances are a major source of Romanian income; social benefits are practically nonexistent there.”

    There is more to the liberal intervention of the state than tax credits; education, roads, hospitals, waste collection.

    “The EU administers a massive intra-European transfer system of structural aid or in agriculture. It may not assist enough, but also national structural help is highly ineffective. How can you support your claim that the EU exacerbates poor government?”

    Massive? It is less than 1% of GDP, and half of that is blown on CAP.
    The difference in federal spending between rich and poor states is 5% of GDP.
    How do I support my claim? Easy – In allowing free movement of capital and movement without the necessary correctives of a transfer union the eu(rozone – really), is damaging those poorer nations.

  • @Arnold Kiel “You are listing European countries which are poorly governed, and the results are terrible.”
    The Countries listed included, France Italy and Spain, Founding members of the EU. Some of the biggest players in the EU. If the EU and the single currency is not working for them, which it clearly isn’t, look at Italy and the lack of growth it has had since adopting the Euro.
    The Single currency is dragging down the whole EU, resulting in massive youth unemployment and increased immigration. It’s a failed project.
    “Their problems are distinct and much older than the EU or the EURO” If this were true then they should have never been allowed to join the union in the first place which again shows its a failed project by allowing member states to join who are not fit for purpose.
    “Do you mean brands like Austin or Morris?”
    No I was not talking about cars, I was talking about simple factory work like Kettle Chips, Cadbury, etc, my point is, people try to claim that British people refuse to do this kind of factory work, I am saying that is rubbish, British people where a nation of hardworking factory workers. Cheap Migrant labour changed all that, companies got greedy.
    “ If they come, they should be able to cope with the UK’s high cost of living and have healthcare; depriving them of in-work benefits would not benefit anybody. Seasonal farm workers go anyhow home after the season; they cannot afford the UK. Seasonal field-work visa is a superfluous principled nonsense”
    Why should the UK tax payer foot the bill for the cost of in work benefits and social housing for temporary immigrants, especially when these people are less likely to be paying tax as they are on minimum wage, taking out more money in benefits and that money is not even being spent in the UK economy as significant portions of it are being sent home to their families. It kind of blows apart the argument that immigrants are net contributors.
    I am sorry but social housing and welfare is being restricted for UK citizens, so please explain how it is liberal to have an open immigration policy that allows “temporary migrants” to come in and take out more than they have contributed?

  • Ed
    Get the HMRC Compliance Officers to pay a visit to that place.

  • matt
    “British people where a nation of hardworking factory workers. ”
    Many of the factories went abroad. Boring unskilled jobs, British workers deserve better.

  • Free movement was fine until it got out of control. Immigration is fine until it gets out of control. The majority of the electorate has indicated that that we need to get control back. I agree with them and so does Vince.

    Why should anyone want uncontrolled immigration? If you do, please can you explain why?

  • Peter
    Free movement is indeed fine where British people can go and live where they want.

  • David Evershed 7th Jan '17 - 12:47pm

    Manfaring

    I counter your USA (white?), Canada, Australia and NZ –
    with non whites of China, India, and Indonesia who are the majority of the world population and discriminated against by the EU immigration policy.

  • Ed Shepherd 7th Jan '17 - 12:48pm

    “Get the HMRC Compliance Officers to pay a visit to that place.” I have no doubt that HMRC are already aware of the existence of Amazon. In what way would HMRC visiting Amazon make any difference to working conditions at Amazon?

  • Ed Shepherd 7th Jan '17 - 12:52pm

    “Many of the factories went abroad. Boring unskilled jobs, British workers deserve better.” But the loss of those factories has left workers with either no job or with more boring, unskilled jobs minus the pension schemes, subisidised education and secure employment that was available at the factories. For instance, HP Sauce closed their factory in England and their sauce is now made in the Netherlands rather than England. Do the Netherland workers complain about being given such boring, unskilled factory jobs?

  • Ed
    The Netherlands factory is probably more automated.
    In the frozen food industry years ago the Dutch had in-line freezers that required 4 workers a shift. Less automatic lines in Britain required 26.

  • Ed Shepherd 7th Jan '17 - 1:21pm

    Does it mean that the Netherlands workers at the automated factory are more bored or less bored or more happy or less happy than the unemployed or underemployed workers in England? In England, the choice for most people who have lost their jobs in factories is to either be unemployed or to accept a job that is less secure, more boring and less well-paid than their former jobs.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jan '17 - 2:28pm

    Superb piece from Catherine Jane Crosland.

    It does not surprise me . I can just see the names and know the extent of their living up to both the Liberal and Democratic in our name. This author of comments above passes both tests regularly. Those who belittle non voters of our party ignore those who might yet support us .

    Those who are members should be more prepared to enable debate , encourage views even different as long as not offensive or out of any keeping with our values. Sir Vince Cable is one of our leading statesmen. If Caron , editor here, who is very much opposed to his view on free movement , can say decent things about him , so should all who share her view. I agree with him . Even if I did not , I would not be saying some of the things said here.

    Lord Greaves from his own unelected position in the Lords, a body I respect more than most as it is full of wise counsel, telling us Sir Vince does not speak for the party , and telling us that if we share the stance of Sir Vince , our party might as well give up , is the descent of Liberalism and democracy into the abyss of one issue and one note and one view politics.

    If this party wants to disown one of its finest leaders, we really are finished as a movement. I do not beleve that at all. It is Lord Greaves who does not speak for us on that .

  • Sue Sutherland 7th Jan '17 - 4:53pm

    The ideal of free movement is good but its implementation has been poor to say the least. I don’t think it’s something you can demand people live up to without taking measures to see that the receiving community can cope. We are all, even Lib Dems, imperfect when it comes to welcoming strangers and this doesn’t mean we are racists. Tim Hill is an example of what I mean. Just think about your own Lib Dem functions. How often have you deliberately gone up to someone new and started talking to them? It’s hard isn’t it to think of what to say, and yet we expect others to welcome strangers with whom they have no connection. Some people can do that and others can’t but the EU has taken this policy ideal and as far as I can see dumped it on its people when it needed allocation of resources, not just money to improve local services, but also people who specialise in integration to provide opportunities for people to meet and communicate.
    Immigration seems to be an area which is crying out for evidence based policy, not a blanket announcement that everyone must accept this or they’re out on their ear. If this is an issue that threatens the very existence of the EU surely a more rational approach would be to take a break, look at what’s happening and what improvements are needed and make the necessary changes.
    I think Vince is very brave in his attempt to do this.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jan '17 - 6:50pm

    Small sigh, where does one start, as a supporter still of free movement of people within the EU? Stuart, for example ‘ The most purely practical objection to mass net immigration (now) is that it is exacerbating … a housing crisis’ : surely, Stuart, you could equally well have cited ‘a health and social care crisis’? Though it isn’t and it doesn’t. Or Nigel Jones, ‘Is it liberal to force large immigration on a community against the well-being and feelings (however irrational) of those who already live there? Telling local people they MUST accept immigration.’ Nigel, this is over the top. We are talking about 5.3 million non-British people in a total British population of 63.7 million, and we know that many of those people are needed, in health and social care, in agriculture, as builders, as plumbers and dentists and so on. In my own area, where there are few immigrants, more are needed to help in the hotels and restaurants, and the fact that Leave voters were in a majority here draws attention to the major non-immigration reasons that people had. In demographic terms, we need more young people coming or growing up here to work in our growing nuclear industry, because there aren’t enough British youngsters coming through. Oh, and by the way, we may not be able to rely on so-called mass migration from Europe much longer – Poland, for instance, is becoming economically stronger all the time.

    David Evershed, you complain that our immigration laws discriminate in favour of ‘primarily white EU citizens and against primarily non-white non-EU citizens.’ Of course they do, David. Take the ‘primarily white’ words out of your sentence, and you see that our laws discriminate against non-EU citizens. That’s because we are in the EU, and hope to remain in it.
    Matt, our views are incompatible. But just one word – why, if having the Euro has been such a terrible burden for the poorer southern states, does Greece insist on staying in it despite the infliction of such harsh economic conditions on the state?
    Jedibee, your views are always interesting. May I know if you are Lib Dems, and if you are singular, m.f., British, living in Britain, what your thinking derives from?

  • David
    Immigration laws are made by the member states of the EU. Before Britain joined the EEC laws were passed to restrict immigration from India and Pakistan. Before 1997 British authorities restricted the number of Hong Kong citizens who were given full British passports.(Now the Chinese issue Hong Kong passports to those resident in the territory and they prevent mainlanders from living there).
    If the British Asians think that leaving the EU will bring about more immigration from these countries they are very mistaken.

    Ed
    The Netherlands factory workers were better paid.

  • jedibeeftrix 7th Jan '17 - 7:44pm

    @ Katharine – “Jedibee, your views are always interesting. May I know if you are Lib Dems, and if you are singular, m.f., British, living in Britain, what your thinking derives from?”

    Thank you. For a moment I believed you were asking if if describe myself in terms of the Latin third declension, but I opted for; single (no, married to a polish citizen – spent xmas 60m west of Wroclaw), m/f (male), living (in Britain – though spent my childhood in E Africa).

    My thinking derives from first principles:
    1. Society is the ultimate expression of freedom of association – a common culture of shared aims and expectations.
    2. That social stability arises from an acceptance of living under the decisions taken by a different political persuasion.
    3. That political legitimacy derives from the perception of both representation of, and accountability to, those same people.

  • It’s not just Vince calling for an end to EU freedom of movement is it. All the polls indicate that around 75% of the population would like to see some form of control. With so many people supporting the policy it will happen. The Lib Dems may do better if they accepted it was going to happen and tried to come up with the best – and fairest – way of doing it.

  • Katharine Pindar, asks the very excellent question : [ if marginaly off topic]

    “…why, if having the Euro has been such a terrible burden for the poorer southern states, does Greece insist on staying in it despite the infliction of such harsh economic conditions on the state?

    My take,.. after some time considering that very point, is that Greek citizens have developed what might be considered a kind of ‘Cargo Cult’ mentality. A decade with the Euro gave them the prospect of cheap loans from French banks, .. discounted cars from Germany,.. and the ability to retire at will, in their early 50’s. Their hope was,.. that by enduring the economic pain, and simply waiting the recession out,.. those ‘goodies’ would return (Cargo Cult thinking?), but if they voted out of the EU, then it would for sure, shut down the possibility of those North European goodies ever returning.?

    Their hope of those good times [plus cheap Euro loans], returning for Greece, was frankly a foreorn hope, but you can at least understand that binary choice they made, with ‘hope’ giving the edge to their choice.?

  • @Katharine Pindar Matt, our views are incompatible. But just one word – why, if having the Euro has been such a terrible burden for the poorer southern states, does Greece insist on staying in it despite the infliction of such harsh economic conditions on the state?
    Katharine, I mean this with all due respect, can you be certain you fully understanding of the absolute dire situation of the Greek people
    Half of those under 25 are out of work. In some regions of western Greece, the youth unemployment rate is well above 60%.
    The Greek people have seen their incomes shrink by 40% already, the Greeks are afraid to exit the euro and have their own currency that would be immediately devalued 40% to 50%, if not even to 60%. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place and they have no idea what is best for them and their country. The pain they are feeling from the austerity and bailouts and the hard sticks that are being waved at them from the EU and the IMF. The Euro is never going to be able to help sort out the problems with Greece, They should have never been allowed to join in the first place. That to me is a signs of an organisation that is not working well at all.
    Although our views are incompatible when it comes to the EU, I am sure there are many Liberal Area’s that we would agree on, http://uk.isidewith.com/results/2964899314 I side with Liberal Democrats on 57% in areas of healthcare, Economic, environmental and health. So it’s not all bad 😉 we just have not come across those topics yet, something to look forward to huh? lol

  • Good article by Vince, although he may wince at being referenced by Michael Gove on Dateline London this weekend as an indication that even Liberal Democrats are seeing the light on freedom of movement.

    Immigration waves in the UK appear historically to have taken the government of the day by surprise. When freedom of return to the ‘mother country’ was established in post-war Britain to tackle labour shortages it appears that the government expected that only former Brits would be returning from the colonies not the indigenous natives of commonwealth countries.
    Similarly, the UK waived its right to a transition period of 7 years before extending freedom of movement to the new accession states under Tony Blair’s administration expecting only few thousand East Europeans to settle here.
    Ultimately, it is the responsibility of government (and therefore any party that seeks to govern) to put in place an efficient system of managed migration that retains the confidence of the public that government serves.
    It is past failures to manage the balance of migration (both in the UK and in the EU) that have turned public opinion against immigration, essential as migrants are to the economy and public services in general. It is only by putting in place a sensible and pragmatic system of immigration controls that public support can be restored.

  • Greece
    Mexico (1994), Thailand(1997), and Argentina (2001) crises all required reforms to create fiscal, monetary and economic stability. A lot of it painful.

  • Joe
    What’s a former Brit? Certainly not an Anglo-Indian.

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Jan '17 - 9:13am

    @ Matt on Greece
    Sorry, but I must accuse you of superficial thinking.
    Some facts about Greece: the state employs 25% of the workforce, transfer payments from the EU 1981-2013: >EUR 70 billion, average pension=63% of average wage, 17,5% of GDP spent on pensions, exports 12,4% of GDP (EU-average 33,6%), imports 25%, tax arrears: Eur 115 billion (70% of GDP), unit labor cost 130% of Germany, black economy 22% of GDP, budget deficit revision 2009: 3,7->12%, consumption: 90% of GDP.
    These are all old home-grown problems. The EU or the EURO forced none of them onto the Greece, it was their corrupt, criminal and complacent elites.

    Yes, the EURO camouflaged Greece’s real credit-worthyness for a while and allowed additional indebtedness, but this was always imprudent and avoidable. Yes, the structural transfers could have been watched better (but then, what about your cherished sovereignty of the Greece?) And no, the option to devaluate a Drachma would not have helped, because Greece never was and never will be a meaningful exporter. Yes, their admission to the EU or the EURO is questionable, but you must think about the alternative: where would Europe and Greece stand today, had we rejected membership to them (and Portugal…) and left them and their funny currency alone squeezed in this corner between the Balkans and Turkey? Do you really believe, they and the rest of Europe were in a better state today?

    Greece’s boom and bust in the last two decades is painful today, but its sum is still positive. More generally, the EU is a success, not a failure, if realistically evaluating the alternatives.

    But, most importantly, what does this have to do with the pros/cons of the UK’s EU membership? The EU is still by far the UK’s biggest export market, and the one where free trade is agreed and works. What remains of your argument in the end is a few hundered thousands of Romanians and Poles you would like to see less in the UK. Not a whole lot, in my view.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Jan '17 - 9:40am

    @ Katharine – “Jedibee, your views are always interesting. May I know if you are Lib Dems, and if you are singular, m.f., British, living in Britain, what your thinking derives from?”

    Oh, and no; while i conisder myself small “l” liberal i am not a lib-dem member. I do have an active and sympathetic interest in the lib-dems as a necessary corrective to social authoritarianism and ignorance of the value of collective action from the right.

    To talk of liberalism, the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights, is difficult by dint of the fact that the word has been appropriated by pretty much every other ideology, conflated with the means by which it has often be achieved, divided by the separate realms of social and economic ideologies, and loosely correlated with the philosophies of negative and positive liberty.

    Classical Liberalism was not merely economic Liberalism, and nor too was it purely about negative liberty.

    Social Liberalism is not always, in effect, an ideology that maximises liberty, and nor too is positive liberty.

    If we can accept that the Conservatism is an attitude whose ambition is not to oppose all change but to resist and balance the volatility of current political fads and ideology, we must likewise accept that it has often been abused by those who elevate it to an ideology.

    This is what befell the Ottoman Empire; a conservative ideology that prevented the nation from adapting to a changing world, justifying the ossification of tradition, and repeatedly rejecting the radical policy attempted by successive Sultans that would allow it to compete with the advances of its rival empires.

    Likewise it must be recognised that Progressivism is supposed to be an attitude too, not an ideology, and that self-interested human venality has often served to abuse progressivism by justifying the loss of liberty on spurious claims to a greater common good.

    This is what befell New Labour; a progressive ideology that enabled a massive raft of policies ‘justified’ by their socially liberal aims, without realising that positive liberty is something that is enforced by government, and that considered as whole the result has been a significant attack on individual liberty.

    I am generically right wing and want limited government. For me, it means spending less than 40% of GDP, and not flooding day to day life with a million regulations ‘guiding’ me down the approved path of life.

  • jed
    I accept Conservatives believe in the importance of social order. This is reflected in a respect for tradition, an emphasis on the importance of religion, and a stress on the importance of inequality – such as inequalities of class or caste – as the basis for structured social relationships.
    I believe in freedom of religion and everybody having a chance in society and not being held back because of their background.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    “But, most importantly, what does this have to do with the pros/cons of the UK’s EU membership?”
    It has everything to do with our membership of the EU, Because I was talking about the failure of the EU as a whole, look at the results of high levels of youth unemployment in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal. Are you seriously suggesting that this has absolutely nothing to do with the Euro and EU fiscal Policy? It has everything to do with it. Hence the reason we see large influxes of immigration that public do not support
    “What remains of your argument in the end is a few hundered thousands of Romanians and Poles you would like to see less in the UK. Not a whole lot, in my view.”
    I have never once mentioned Romanian and Polish immigrants, so please do not try and insinuate that I am being racist as that sentence implies.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Jan '17 - 11:18am

    @ Manfarang – “I believe in freedom of religion and everybody having a chance in society and not being held back because of their background.”

    Who doesn’t? I also have nothing against cats, recognise the value of mothers, and inherent virtue of pie-crust containing cooked apples.

    “I accept Conservatives believe in the importance of social order. This is reflected in a respect for tradition, an emphasis on the importance of religion, and a stress on the importance of inequality – such as inequalities of class or caste – as the basis for structured social relationships.”

    My definition of Conservatism comes from Baron Hailsham, what we might regard today as the high-priest of tory’ism.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Jan '17 - 11:36am

    @ Manfarang – “If the British Asians think that leaving the EU will bring about more immigration from these countries they are very mistaken.”

    Why is this such an unreasonable expectation?

    Free movement from europe to a country where ~3/4 of the electorate believe immigration is too high has resulted in a uniquely punitive regime for the RoW.

    A regime who contrast with eu migration means that 7% of the world’s population occupies 60% of the inward migration to Britain, leaving the other 90% with just 40% of the opportunity.

    I imagine that any future post eu regime would still see europe disproportionately represented as a percentage of world population, if only because of proximity and skills. However, I very much doubt it would be as skewed as it is now.

    For people who don’t recognise any real european political identity or close familial kinship – whereas they might much more easily do the same for commonwealth countries such as singapore or canada – what reason have they to perpetuate such an unequal system?

  • jed
    Because the system will be equally restrictive.

  • Julianne Smith 8th Jan '17 - 12:01pm

    speaking as an economist and finance graduate, I entirely agree with Mr Vince Cable. the EU’s free-for-all border abuse system is already leading to chaos and it’s only going to get worse. It’s a big NO to ‘EU freedom of movement’ from me!

  • “The permeability of the Irish border must lead to a united Ireland in Europe. ” So Mr.Cable is advocating breaking up the UK, and for a united Ireland? Well if Scotland does leave the UK, maybe this would be for the best, but would the majority of the Northern Ireland population want this?. Living in Pembrokeshire, I would would not want to be shackled to a remnant right-wing xenophobic England. Wales should then become itself an independent nation.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Jan '17 - 12:27pm

    @ Manfarang – “Because the system will be equally restrictive.”

    Apparently, a number of people disagreed with you.

  • @Katherine Pindar
    Are you saying that we don’t actually have a housing crisis? Or is it that the people coming here (currently about 650,000 pa, or 350,000 net) somehow have a spooky ability not to increase demand for housing? For the housing crisis, if we accept it exists, is nothing more than the failure of supply to keep up with demand (and yes I know that some immigrants will be involved in housebuilding so are helping with the supply).

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Jan '17 - 7:12pm

    I feel like I’m coming to this party exceptionally late.

    I can see how Vince’s position is a position a liberal might take. It’s not inherently illiberal, and it tries to reconcile a humanitarian conscience, respect for democratic process and the will of the peoples of nation-states, self-determination of nation-states, respect for the free action of individuals, and the need for a healthy exchange of people, ideas and trade between nations.

    That said, it’s clearly against the direction this party has been running in, and it will be seen as not a Liberal Democrat position by many in this party.

    Some of the several places where, however, I personally struggle with what he says are:
    – his glib assumption that Ireland ‘must’ unify. I’m not saying that it might be a bad thing, but telling Irish and Northern Irish peope that it is inevitable and ergo they have no democratic say in it, has been proven to (near) destruction to be a really bad idea.
    – his complete lack of discussion of the real possibility that Schengen will die in the near future. If it does, will ‘freedom of movement’ look the same now as it did last year?
    – He and very few people in this thread seem to recognise that post-brexit, we will have little say in the EU’s policy of freedom of movement, unless we negotiate a stake in those decisions for ourselves (which seems impossible right now). After the referendum we ceased to become actors in the EU and became receptors of its decisions only.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jan '17 - 11:19pm

    @ Jedibee – Deo Gracias, you are still writing interesting and intelligent comments, and have satisfied my curiosity, thank you! Incidentally, having a Polish wife, you may know if it is true that the Polish economy has revived to the extent that some (many?) migrants here were beginning to return home even before the threat of Brexit. As to ideology, you see us as ‘a correction to social authoritarianism and ignorance of the value of collective action from the right’ : you are opposed to all extremes, it seems, and find they tend both left and right to end in attacking individual liberty. I can see that, while of course I don’t agree with ‘generally right-wing and wanting limited government’ stances, being an enthusiast for reform myself. No matter! I will keep on reading your thoughtful comments. Manfarang (another mystery name!), it sounds as if you are more of the same persuasion as me.

    On Greece, thank you for your views, J. Dunn, though I don’t know what Cargo Cult is. I conclude that you think Greek adherence to the Euro is based on hope, whereas Matt feels it is more fear. Arnold, your production of statistics is awe-inspiring, but your conclusion on that suffering people (for whom I have a sentimental sympathy) seems very Germanic, I suppose naturally. Matt, as you say, you and I WILL find some common ground in time!
    Matt (Bristol), never too late to be a welcome party guest, I am sure. You are I think right to mention the possibility of great changes in EU structures coming on. I read a fascinating article in The Times on Friday suggesting that France and Germany could even propose reforms themselves and seek a referendum to approve them. Author Philip Collins doesn’t see it as likely, but there is another thinker realising that the EU is really in a state of flux, making outcomes of negotiation uncertain I suppose whatever the solidity of British demands.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jan '17 - 11:45pm

    @ Stuart – sorry, forgot to reply to you (not because you spelled my first name wrongly!). Yes, of course I accept there is a housing crisis, but I don’t think migrants have added much to that. For one thing, they have to live in an area for two years before having access to social housing. And as you say, some of them work in the building trade – and I believe there is an acute shortage of scaffolders now! Housing provision is being stepped up, and if there is management of immigration from now on as seems likely, I don’t think there will be any doomsday scenario arising.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jan '17 - 7:38am

    @ Katharine – “you may know if it is true that the Polish economy has revived to the extent that some (many?) migrants here were beginning to return home even before the threat of Brexit.”

    The polish economy never had a recession, and indeed always managed to post very healthy growth. Typically one or two percent higher than the trend among major euro economies. France/Germany/Britain would kill to achieve 3+ percent growth year after year.

    Poland is changing rapidly, my journey time to the inlaws is now halved due to motorways, and the economy is diversifying rapidly, with cities showing many of the tech companies and services you’d find in western europe.

    It remains a deeply rural country, an endless quilt of villages and minor towns, spotted with the occasional city, vs england which is patchs of green dotted between sprawling conurbations. The result of this disparity is an inequality in the growth, with the cities fast outpacing the countryside at the rate of advancement.

  • @Katharine Pindar
    “Yes, of course I accept there is a housing crisis, but I don’t think migrants have added much to that. For one thing, they have to live in an area for two years before having access to social housing”
    That’s not strictly true, have you seen the documentary how to get a council house? I think it is based on Hanslow Council, its one of the London Boroughs anyway. If the migrant has children under 16 then the council has a duty to house them, even if it is in temporary accommodation in a hotel / bed and breakfast and at a huge cost to the tax payer. That’s the law. So it’s not actually accurate to say that they have to be living in area for 2 years because that rule can only be applied to adults with no children.
    Here is a link to the documentary and as you will see the council housed them after only arriving in the UK 4 days previous and in a 4bedroom house, admittedly outside of London, but still at the councils and the tax payers expense in temporary accommodation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfPTm5ZOkxE.
    The week previously or possibly after there was a case of a Single Mum, who had lived In Britain for most of her life and in this particular London Borough but her parents were from somewhere in the Caribbean and they had moved back there. The young mother was being evicted by her landlord as she had gotten into arrears with her rent due to fluctuating income on a zero hours contract. She was served with, an eviction notice; she went to the council for help. The council refused to help her as they ruled she had made herself intentionally homeless by getting behind on her rental payments, they not only refused to help her, they then helpfully informed her that because she had a child under 16, they would have to report her to social services. As you can imagine the poor woman was terrified and had to ring her parents in the Caribbean and beg them to buy her a ticket for her and her daughter to get out of there.
    This is not propaganda TV shows like benefits street, which I abhor, this is a channel 4 documentary about Council Housing Departments.
    When you watch things like this, you can see the injustices in the system and it is understandable why people see immigration as a problem and want it changed

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Jan '17 - 11:12am

    @ Matt,
    evidently, you prefer to remain at the surface of the problem; your argument is therefore as good as: The UK should quit NATO, because Turkey is in a mess, or: let’s quit the UN, because either Russia or China are always blocking the security council resolutions.

    A country succeeds in a globalized world, if it makes things other countries want to buy, and if it remunerates its production factors in line with their productivity. Some EU members do this, others don’t. If you want to escape this logic by closing your borders, look at North Korea or Cuba to see the results.

    If you want to replace low-paid EU-immigrants by higher paid Britons, everybody in the UK will pay more for food, transportation, deliveries, a haircut, health, and house-building (most likely also even less housing supply). I had no intention to suggest any racist motives on your side, sorry. I was just referring to the largest groups of low-skilled EU immigrants, whom this whole overblown debate boils down to.

    @ Katherine Pindar
    Concerning poor Greeks, who have my profound sympathy (in buying cheap political slogans they are no worse than 52% of Britons), my conclusion was that EU membership is good for them and does not hurt the UK; I do not understand what is “Germanic” about that. In contrast to most of my countrymen, I do not advocate their exit from the EURO, because it would result in a horrible humanitarian crisis.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    “A country succeeds in a globalized world,”
    I am glad you said that, because our future lays in being able to negotiate our own trade agreements with the rest of the world, not just concentrating on the protectionism of the EU whose share of the world wealth is due to drop to 15% over the next decade according to Junker which will just make the EU become even more protectionist, The EU has been hopeless at making trade agreements with the rest of the world.
    “If you want to replace low-paid EU-immigrants by higher paid Britons, everybody in the UK will pay more for food, transportation, deliveries, a haircut, health, and house-building (most likely also even less housing supply). “
    I do not agree with your conclusions about increased costs in food, it is entirely possible that outside the CAP, UK Farmers will be allowed to grow “Exactly” what they want (None of this silly, UK farmers must grow 3 different crops a year as imposed by the EU) and in the quantities they want to sell to UK supermarkets, they will also be able to export more outside the EU without facing the tariffs that are imposed by the EU. We will also be able to import more food from outside the EU, without the high tariffs that the EU imposes. This will put money back in the pockets of the consumer which gives them more disposable income to spend in the local economies.
    As for higher paid Britons, absolutely I want to see this and it is only natural that as wages increase so will the costs of a haircut.
    What is your evidence that house building would cost more and there would be less supply?

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Jan '17 - 8:52pm

    @ Arnold Kiel. Hi, Arnold (KathArine by the way), no offence meant, but you did condemn the Greeks very strongly, blaming their ‘corrupt, criminal and complacent elites’ for their problems, which may be true for anything I know, but reminded me of the hard approach of the German Finance Minister to the Syriza ministers when they came asking for help, and how I read at the time Yanis Varoufakis’s denunciation of European hard capitalism. I don’t know, not being an economist, the rights of the matter – not that economists have got much of a reputation themselves just now – I was just going by the feelings I ended up with. As to logical reasoning, you know I am usually much on your side in these debates.
    @ Matt, thanks for pointing out the case in Hounslow; as to the two-year business, I was going by what Nick Clegg had said in 2014 that the Coalition was doing about the perceived migrant problem, but there weren’t any details there. The single mum’s case, poor soul, doesn’t seem to advance the argument in any way – but yes, I have watched most of the Channel 5 and Channel 4 programmes on housing and on benefit claimants, and they haven’t led me to consider migrants as a problem.
    @ jedibee, thank you for that information on Polish growth, which confirms what I had read. Your description of the rural areas takes me back to my one visit, 20 years ago, which included long train journeys. However I had also read that Polish people were returning to work there from Britain, which you don’t comment on, and I suppose on general development trends young people from the underdeveloped countryside might be inclined to seek work in their own growing cities, rather than making for Britain, especially now.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jan '17 - 10:17pm

    @ Katharine – “However I had also read that Polish people were returning to work there from Britain, which you don’t comment”

    My apologies. Not deliberatly. i simply didn’t have anything to add.
    I have a number of polish relations and friends, some from the old days who have since returned, many who happily remain. Students, working in Gov’t, the NHS, in IT, as builders, and in technical professions.

    I have not seen any Brexit related trend, those who have left have done so for their own reasons, but that is not to say some haven’t. Some came as students and stayed for the experience and then moved on, some worked abroad in highly paid engineering jobs and came to britain in the summers for an easy working holiday. Most are building their lives here, and may or may not move on in future for the same reasons British twenty/thirty somethings do.

  • Martin Gentles 11th Jan '17 - 11:48am

    This thread is bloody depressing to read. Where were all these skeptics of free movement two or three years ago? Look, Vince might well be right, I have no problem accepting that possibility. But I do hate that now a referendum has been won by skeptics of FoM suddenly everyone, including Vince, emerges as a skeptic. Bit bloody convenient timing Cable!

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jan '17 - 11:36am

    Martin, you are absolutely right, and prompt me to have this extra comment, because yesterday I reread the Party’s firm commitment to the Four Freedoms, with emphasis on Freedom of Movement, and repeated them in a comment on the new thread from a Dutch Liberal. Vince Cable is opposing the strong policy of our party, at a time when the strength of our view is a vote-winner, given the ditherings of both the Labour Party and the Tory Government. I feel indignant about this, particularly in his timing, as we are about to fight a by-election. This is in my neighbouring constituency of Copeland, and last night we selected a good candidate, Rebecca Hanson, a young teacher, businesswoman and town councillor who has been very active in defence of the services of the hospital in Whitehaven. Campaigning starts straight away, and we urge everyone who can to come and join us in our united bid to make the Liberal Democrats important in West Cumbria, and give the parties and media who ignore us a salutary shock.

  • Gerry Lawson 13th Jan '17 - 12:03pm

    I know the Liberals don´t like identity cards, but they are used in all other EU countries except Ireland and Denmark to check people´s entitlement to be in the country. In other EU member states “free movement” means that EU nationals can live and work in the country for 3 months, but after that they have to prove (to the police or another local office) that they have enough personal income and health insurance to avoid becoming a burden on the state. Entitlement to benefits doesnt happen till you´ve worked in the country for 5 years. That seems a fair level of “free movement” – we just need to do the same in the UK.

  • Tim Williams 18th Jan '17 - 9:35am

    If the EU leaders hadn’t been so ideologically blinkered, and had listened to citizens from countries seeing high levels of inward AND outward immigration, allowing for an emergency break on immigration, the UK would not have voted “out”. It is important for mainstream parties to have practical policies to avoid the extremes looking like the sensible ones. They will ultimately be forced by voters voting for anti-EU parties to change the policy, and allow flexibility. We could have influenced this if we’d remained. The EU elite are out of touch and totally messed it up. Our children will be poorer, both economically and culturally, for it.

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