Dear Vince, Please stop and think before blaming immigrants

On Wednesday, Vince Cable spoke at an Open Britain event where he talked about EU immigration being “managed” from within the EU. Later in the day he tweeted: “Fully support [Gordon Brown’s] proposals to ensure that #Immigration is managed. Compatible with membership of #singlemarket and #EuropeanUnion. Pity his government and mine acted too late to stop disastrous #Brexit vote. But not too late to stop Brexit.” So we’ve written him this letter to tell him what we think:

Dear Vince,

We know you’re trying to help; really, we do. We know that you want the UK to stay in the EU; we know that you think that this is the best way of going about it.

But please, stop.

Every time you say “we can manage EU immigration better”, you’re also saying “…and we need to because EU immigration is too high and is a problem”.

We in Liberal Democrat Immigrants just don’t believe that this is true. The party as a whole doesn’t believe it. You don’t believe it. The available evidence doesn’t support it.

You don’t think EU immigration is too high. You think that other people think it’s too high, and you think it’s easier to appease them than to correct them

And this rhetoric is harmful to our project of making the positive, liberal, case for freedom of movement. You aren’t intending it to be, but this is how it’s coming across.

Finally, at a personal level, please ask yourself how it sounds to someone who chose to come to live in the UK from the EU, hearing you wishing that more barriers had been placed in their way. We need to be better than that as a party. You need to be better than that as our leader.

Yours,

Liberal Democrat Immigrants

* Liberal Democrat Immigrants exists to represent those members of the Liberal Democrats who have chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere. It also seeks to represent the interests of immigrants to the UK in general and to highlight those issues that disproportionately affect immigrants.

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71 Comments

  • I completely agree with this letter – it is a crucual issue, and Vince is wrong here.

    But it is also really quite remarkable that Vince is pre-empting the findings of a specific policy working group that was set up to look at immigration policy, and in the process, walking all over our constitutional commitment to promote the free movement of people (and not just workers).

  • I agree with William

  • Peter Martin 8th Jun '18 - 10:47am

    Immigration can happen internally too. So, for example, for someone from a depressed area in Northern Ireland can probably improve their life chances by moving to the SE of England. Some immigration along these lines is probably a good thing. There will always be a net flow from areas of high unemployment and lower wages to areas of low unemployment and higher wages. But, ultimately, it doesn’t do anyone any good if the only solution for low wages and likely unemployment is to depopulate certain regions of the country . How about moving the jobs instead?

    What’s the point of Northern Ireland becoming depopulated when there’s plenty of space there to build new houses and factories etc, and for the SE of England to become over populated and suffer from overcrowding in what available housing and schooling there might be?

    We see the same problem in the EU too. The best solution isn’t to restrict immigration per se. It’s far better to allow the governments of the peripheral regions some leeway under the terms of the Stability and Growth Pact to purse expansionary rather than contractionary economics, and so provide the jobs that local people need. They might even provide jobs for British people too.

    There’s a lot to be said for having Malaga’s weather rather than Manchester’s!

  • Sean Hyland 8th Jun '18 - 10:48am

    Not a speech i thought I’d hear from a LidDem leader. Certainly not an approach i would support.

  • Adam Bernard 8th Jun '18 - 10:52am

    I think this is a consequence of politicians not thinking of the human consequences of restricting immigration.

    If there’s a public demand for banknotes to be purple, then fine, let’s make banknotes purple. But anti-immigration sentiment isn’t like that. This is a public demand for other people’s rights to be taken away.

    Liberals restrict people’s freedoms only to prevent harm. We do not restrict freedoms to allay Genuine Concerns where the evidence is that those concerns are unfounded.

    Vince is right that governments — Labour, Coalition, and Tory — should have done more: they should have done more to make the positive case for immigration, more to counter hatemongering against immigrants as a group, and more to ensure good public services and public infrastructure.

  • Absolutely spot on. We should be proudly championing freedom of movement for its own sake!

  • One of the most effective ways of improving the economies of poorer countries is to make immigration to richer ones easy. If it’s easy to come here, then people are much more inclined to come temporarily and send remittances back, much more inclined to come and go again.

    This was one of the real lessons of the large numbers of immigrants from Poland. Because they knew they could come back to the UK if they left, it felt safer to go back to Poland. Sure, some have chosen to stay permanently, but many people came to work for a few years and went back. With all those remittances coming in, and people returning with both human and financial capital, Warsaw isn’t a poor city any more (even if much of rural Poland still is pretty poor).

    Something that Brexit is doing is trapping immigrants in the UK. Remember that our “permanent” status requires you not to leave the UK for more than 2 years, so unless you’re a UK citizen, if you leave you might never be able to come back. So people stay and turn down opportunities outside the UK.

    Every time you make it harder to come here, you make people who are already here more afraid of leaving.

  • Sue Sutherland 8th Jun '18 - 11:45am

    I agree with Dave Page

  • Neil Sandison 8th Jun '18 - 11:56am

    I think Vince is toying with the EEA but knows the Brexiteers including some Corbynites will cite free movement as a barrier .Free movement to take up a job offer or meet a skill shortage or fill unfilled vacancies should be allowed without undue restrictions both ways .We should not pander to the racists but we do need to manage flow so that we avoid doing what Labour did and put incredable burdens on community services that could not cope with a sudden influx of people over a short time period .That just increased hostility to the EU and gave an excuse to the Brexiteers to abandon Europe and look to cozy up to their old pals in far right America.

  • “I think this is a consequence of politicians not thinking of the human consequences of restricting immigration.”
    Perhaps they are thinking about the human consequences of not restricting immigration – you only have to look at the speed with which an influx of people can overwhelm a state society and how much time and effort it takes for order to be restored…

    However, I do agree that EU immigrants are being unfairly targetted when it is abundantly clear that the UK has and continues to fail to manage immigration, whether it originates from the EU or the rest-of-the-world, and that Vince by applying the ‘EU’ caveat is playing into the hands of those who seek to exploit workers from the rest-of-the-world.

  • James Baillie 8th Jun '18 - 12:47pm

    “You only have to look at the speed with which an influx of people can overwhelm a state society and how much time and effort it takes for order to be restored.”
    Speaking as a historian… this actually doesn’t really happen, excepting in cases where the influx of people are an invading army. I can’t think of any significant examples of migrant populations causing the collapse of civilisations that didn’t involve significant military conflict (occasionally coupled with influxes of new disease), which is clearly not remotely what we’re talking about here. In general civilisations that permit freer migration tend to be stronger ones, because freer migration allows for a much more efficiently run economy in general which benefits everyone.

    Migrants have no interest in “overwhelming state societies”. Migrants in general just want to do a job and get paid for it and have enough to live on and to be able to live and look after their families, because migrants are human beings just like all the other human beings. We’ll never get a decent or even vaguely humane migration policy unless we really start making that case, instead of pandering to people’s fears.

  • I am part of an influx to a city that has more than doubled in population in the last forty years. What has happened in those years? More roads, houses, hospitals, and schools have been built and the residents enjoy a much better standard of living. And the country is now part of an economic community with other neighbouring states.

  • William Fowler 8th Jun '18 - 1:26pm

    I would like to see you explain the benefits of immigration to an unemployed or low paid man or couple who are living in a grotty bedsit because immigrant families have priority for social housing, or rough sleepers for that matter.

    The solution, as I keep saying in the hope that someone will listen, is a five to ten year residence test before access to benefits, tax credits, social housing etc – and so badly have poor Brits been treated it would have to be retrospective so that people who don’t meet the criteria would be moved to hostels, freeing up lots of social housing… get the EU to allow this and the low skill immigration problem goes away and Sir Vince can ride his white horse into second referendum victory (but the law would have to be in force before the referendum otherwise people won’t believe it).

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Jun '18 - 1:40pm

    A debate on immigration is legitimate and does not mean those with questions are racist or xenophobic.
    Many arguments are specious. We have no great movement from Little Budworth to London (BTW I know it well – we used to live in Ashton). Why? because the conditions of security, education, wealth and health care are (broadly) the same.
    But there are huge populations living under civil war, in drought stricken villages or in vast favellas who would immediately move to either if they could.
    We have large areas of green belt. We could double or triple our population. Is that what those proposing open borders want?
    Is that to be the solution to the world’s problems? South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia move to Europe? What happens to the vast depopulated areas?
    Much of this trouble is our fault. Vast tracts of the Middle East have become uninhabitable due the the crazed actions of politicians including our own (especially our own – stand fast the magnificent Charles Kennedy).
    The key to freedom of movement across the earth is to strive to balance up the earth, not move all its people in one direction.

  • I think it *seriously* calls into question his fitness for the role.

    I’m sure not many Liberal Democrats would disagree — but what are the other options?

  • @William Fowler – “and so badly have poor Brits been treated it would have to be retrospective so that people who don’t meet the criteria would be moved to hostels, freeing up lots of social housing”

    Really??? Are you seriously advocating the forcible removal of families who happen to be immigrants from social housing into hostels?

    Can you quantify “lots”? What percentage of our social housing stock do you think is occupied by those pesky immigrants?

    To save you the effort, I’ll tell you. Around 91% of social housing is occupied by British nationals, around half of whom are retired. Only about 9% goes to immigrants.

    So your “lots” is about 9%.

  • Nom de Plume 8th Jun '18 - 4:20pm

    @Neil Sandison

    Could you give your sources for “put incredable burdens on community services that could not cope with a sudden influx of people over a short time period”. Unsubstantiated rumours and myths are no small part of the problem, since they prey on fears and insecurities. Most of the people who came from the EU would have come to work.

  • I personally can’t think of many people who have been as outspoken as Vince in tackling racism, or highlighting the benefits that immigration does bring – and some of the people commenting should also reflect on what he and his family have personally experienced. There is a reasonable debate to be had about whether immigration is too restrictive in terms of people from around the world at present, and there is a reasonable debate about whether there should be totally unrestricted travel within the EU (or whether in the past there should have been temporary controls facing new EU states). Raising both issues is important.

  • Nom de Plume 8th Jun '18 - 4:51pm

    @ Simon

    Why would you want to restrict travel? Long term residency and work is an issue for some.
    They are academic debates. Schengen and the single market are going to remain in the EU. The Tories seem to be determined to stop immigration from the EU, at any cost. That is their choice. We will have to see where we end up. Interesting that, on the other hand, you might consider immigration from the rest of the world too restricted. What are you suggesting?

  • John Marriott 8th Jun '18 - 7:24pm

    As a former migrant myself (Canada 1970 to 1973, West Germany 1973 to 1974) I am probably the last person to argue in favour of limits on immigration. However, as I have said on several threads, I support Free Movement of Labour but not people. Political refugees and asylum seekers are a different matter; but economic migrants, which is what I and my wife were, should fit certain criteria, on the lines recommended by Gordon Brown. Sorry if that offends the purists; but, if we had had a sensible approach since the turn of this century, when the first Eastern European countries joined the EU, I reckon that the majority of those voting nearly two years ago would have voted REMAIN.

  • Spot on John.

  • Nom de Plume 8th Jun '18 - 9:08pm

    @John Marriott

    So, some people, perhaps a deciding minority,voted leave because they don’t like (some) east europeans working here. A position I disagree with. Even fruit pickers are needed. We will see what the price for this mean-spirited attitude is. It will certainly stop many Britons working on the continent.

  • John Marriott 8th Jun '18 - 9:34pm

    @ Nom de Plume
    You call it “mean spirited” if you want; but had the UK introduced transitional arrangements, like France and Germany, for example, when the first tranche of former Warsaw Pact countries joined the EU, I have a strong suspicion that much of the prejudice which sadly exists in the minds of many of our citizens against ‘foreigners’ could have been mitigated.

    Cynically, it was the last Labour Government, that, rather than tackle the problem of low agricultural wages, the general public’s desire for ‘cheap food’ and, dare I say it, the reluctance on the part of the indigenous population to undertake the kind of work required, went for the easy option. Yes, of course hypocrisy is rife; but hypocrisy is not a crime that prohibits its adherents from having an opinion, however illogical in the opinion of some, and, more importantly, from casting a vote.

  • The problem with the immigration debate is that it’s the wrong way round. It’s fine to argue for something, but it is less fine to believe it should be imposed with little support. The balance should be tipped slightly more towards a majoritarian consensus, rather than to a kind of Institutional Liberal technocratic and ideologically purer view. The issue isn’t a new hydra called populism, but unpopular policies failing to gain social traction and carrying on regardless to the point where it becomes politically counterproductive. I think this is what Vince Cable is getting at.

  • David Evans 8th Jun '18 - 10:27pm

    John Marriott is right, and so many others are sadly looking at the issue from only two limited viewpoints, the immigrant’s and their own. It is easy to be in favour of unlimited immigration if you are in a relatively well paid job, living in a big city, for an international company, and the community you identify with is a multinational group of colleagues and friends. It’s a bit tougher if you live in a rural or deprived urban area, and have little no opportunities for positive interaction with immigrants and have seen the benefits of immigration go yet again to big companies and the rich, while you personally have seen the standard of living of yourself, your family and your community fall for many years.

    As Nom de Plume states, It may well be a position he disagrees with, but the UK is a democracy, and a majority voted to leave, partly because the truth that mattered to them was more important than the truth that appeals to many Lib Dems. The result of those “people, perhaps a deciding minority, voted leave because they don’t like (some) east europeans working here” is that our country is in the biggest mess it has been in since the 1940s, and it probably will get a lot worse. As for the comment on the mean spirited attitude, I would look at the mean spirited attitude of those who benefited the most, voting for parties that supported cuts in services and taxes, rather than those who used their vote to get their own back.

    As Lib Dems we all believe in the values of Liberal Democracy, one of which is the value of community, and if you can’t take your community with you as you promote Liberal Democrat aims, quite simply you are not doing it right. The results of election after election between 2011 and now show how far we have become disconnected from so much of the wider community, and them from us.

  • The reality is that wanting lower immigrations is the majority view. It isn’t really primarily about economics. It’s over 70% in some surveys closer to 78% of the population. By definition this cannot be made up entirely of people living in deprived areas. Maybe people are just not ideologically liberal, do not see things like borders as bad or regressive, do not see themselves as internationalists, do not think nation states are the source of evil and so on. Maybe, what your really coming up against is a form of contractarianism mingling with a tendency towards conservatism which clashes with visions of a globalized utopia. In short may there are simply a lot more stick in the muds than liberal idealists.

  • John Marriott 9th Jun '18 - 11:18am

    Thanks, Mark and David Evans, for your support. I’m getting worried. That’s two people in one thread who appear to share my views. Usually, it’s only David Raw!

    David’s contribution is, to quote Mark’s words, “spot on”. He highlights in particular the dilemma in rural areas, which I have witnessed at first hand in Lincolnshire. Being a linguist (sort of, but not with the back catalogue of Sir Nick), hearing ‘foreign tongues’ as I walk through Lincoln is quite exciting; but I can see why for those less familiar with other languages this might seem threatening. It’s not really about myths about benefits or jumping the housing queue but more about living on an island whose borders are more clearly defined geographically, than, say, living in certain parts of Europe, where a knowledge of several languages might be essential.

    It reminds me of an ex teacher colleague of mine in Canada. He was the third generation of a German speaking immigrant family who originated from what is now Poland. When his family lived there before WW1, they spoke German at home, Polish when out shopping and Russian in school (the area then being part of the Russian Empire). Makes our ‘problems’ look rather small, I would say!

  • William Fowler 9th Jun '18 - 11:40am

    I can see why long term Liberals are annoyed by Sir Vince both on immigration – which if not sorted means a second referendum probably won’t be won – and economics where he has called Labour’s policy of printing money to cover extravagant spending fantasy economics (in contrast to many posters on here who believe it will solve most problems rather than further ruining the currency), but he has managed to achieve record membership and improved election results… so he gets my vote.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '18 - 1:58pm

    @William Fowler “he has managed to achieve record membership”
    Strictly speaking, I believe that was Tim Farron.
    Membership since then appears to have dropped 2.7% to 100,500 in April 2018 (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05125) from a reported 103,300 in 2017 (https://www.markpack.org.uk/151643/liberal-democrat-party-membership-overtaken-conservatives/).

  • Chris Miller 9th Jun '18 - 7:40pm

    @Andrew Hickey – while Neil Sandison’s comment is a bit ambiguous, it could be that he was referring to levels of funding for things like integrating non-English speaking children into school, or providing medical care to someone who needs a translator to talk to the medics. While there was no across-the-board austerity under Blair and Brown, local council funding settlements would have been based on the 2001 census, before any Poles were able to use their free movement rights. It’s not racist to point out that some local authorities might have struggled to adapt.

  • Dean Crofts 9th Jun '18 - 8:47pm

    This is a delicate issue, no lib dems are anti free movement. The mistake made by the Labour government and the EU was the lack of control and monitoring of free movement after the accession of states in Eastern Europe. 2004. There was also a lack of administration pre 2010 on EU law and access to state welfare by the UK government. The rules of EU welfare law only started to be applied post 2010. The EU is 28 countries all with different economies and different welfare systems. The euro is the movement to tackle the differences in each States economies however wages and welfare has many disparities within the EU. It is thus failure of the EU to recognise this, and deal with fairness among EU states when administering freedom of movement. As lib dems please let us not pretend that the EU is perfect. Yes, we need to be in the EU, but in it to challenge, develop and make it better than it even is today. I am in a leave area and many who voted leave are not racist, not against freedom of movement they actually have the express wish that they understand why an individual wants to move and make a better life for themselves. They were not expecting households to be filled with 5 to 12 adults per household, they were not expecting for our welfare system to support families in another EU state, they would have liked to see more EU families integrate, remember no help was given for this, into UK society, take the example of the belgian mayor of menchen, he instigated a program of integration locally and as a result not one Muslim has defected to isis, the only region in Belgium that can claim this. Yes let’s be proud of freedom of movement, yes let’s champion it, but also let us consider the effects it has on others and introduce it sensibly, so on this one I agree with Vince, if we do not recognise this then tell me how are we going to be attractive to leavers as well as remainders and be a serious party contender for government.

  • Nom de Plume 9th Jun '18 - 9:01pm

    @Chris Miller

    All the Poles I have met speak good English. Evidence for your claims, please!

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Jun '18 - 9:35pm

    Dean Crofts – ‘There was also a lack of administration pre 2010 on EU law and access to state welfare by the UK government. The rules of EU welfare law only started to be applied post 2010.’

    Pre-2010 there most certainly was administration on those things by the UK. There was a tightening post 2010 (as for UK nationals) but to say that there was a lack prior to 2010 is just not true. I believe other EU countries tightened post financial crisis.

    ‘It is thus failure of the EU to recognise this, and deal with fairness among EU states when administering freedom of movement.’

    There have been some efforts on the part of the EU, most notably the PWD Enforcement Directive – but frankly they have been pretty feeble efforts. My suspicion is that the EU recognised it perfectly well in fact, just the countries on the better end of the deal don’t really want reform.

    This however seems to me to be the crux – ‘They were not expecting households to be filled with 5 to 12 adults per household, they were not expecting for our welfare system to support families in another EU state, they would have liked to see more EU families integrate.’

    The elephant in the room in these debates is that if you want a more controlled society with things like welfare capacity, housing planned, appropriate public infrastructure and the like then you need a *more* controlled population. What you make of that and what balance you personally strike is another matter. But to make the simple point that large, unplanned, uncontrolled influxes and outflows cause social and economic dislocations is not an ideological capitulation to the vinegary UKIP style of nationalism.

    It seems to me that for all the fire and brimstone here the question is very simple – YES or NO. Do people here want unilateral open borders? There is no ‘but,’ If so then fair enough, but at the very least say so openly and then acknowledge and own the implications of that. If not then equally fine – but then it needs a stance that goes beyond virtue signalling.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '18 - 10:01pm

    @Dean Crofts “no lib dems are anti free movement”
    I remember Nick Clegg in the 2010 election debates talking about the party’s policy of a regional points-based system for migrants, so not that long ago it sounded like Lib Dems weren’t even that keen on free movement within the UK!

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '18 - 10:25pm
  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '18 - 10:40pm

    On the subject of the cost of translation services, it does look like the Lib Dems acted on this when in government, with Nick Clegg raising the issue in a speech to the party on immigration (http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2013/03/22/nick-clegg-s-sensible-immigration-speech-in-full) and some months later announcing an end to subsidy of this in some areas (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nick-clegg-announces-end-to-subsidised-translation-services-for-migrants-9650410.html).

  • Nom de Plume 9th Jun '18 - 11:13pm

    @ Peter Watson

    Thanks for the links. I was going to suggest that the costs should be claimed against the EHIC scheme, if not by the patient. In context the total cost for translation serivices (telegraph link) was £17 million on a NHS budget of c.£120 billion, or 0.014%. This includes non-EU nationals. It is bigger than I expected.

  • William Fowler
    “I would like to see you explain the benefits of immigration to an unemployed or low paid man or couple”
    I will explain the habitual residence test to them.

  • William Fowler 10th Jun '18 - 8:18am

    “I will explain the habitual residence test to them.”

    Yes fair enough if it was rigorously employed on all benefits etc (on refugees as well) and set at five to ten years rather than two if you are lucky. I am aware that benefit limits, as long as they are applied equally to Brits and foreigners, can be set by our own govn… however, if you want to win a second referendum then it would be much better if the pronouncement came from the EU as it would be portrayed as a massive win for whoever persuaded them, preferably Sir Vince if you want to get some serious electoral results. You can then see him on the front page of the magazines as the Man Who Saved Britain!

  • Dear Lib Dem Immigrants, Please stop and think before blaming Vince for discussing in a clear, open and Liberal way, all the issues around immigration. And definitely stop using a problem almost all western countries face to undermine the leader of the one party in the UK that has the most accepting attitude to immigration of all the UK parties.

    And finally, don’t put your words into Vince’s mouth and pretend that is what he is really saying. It’s not very liberal, is it?

  • We all like the idea of free movement in principle and that’s fine as a principle. The challenge comes when we translate that into practical measures and policy. I would suggest we support free movement up to the point when it becomes a barrier to something else like societal cohesion. We then want to specify who can come and that raises a myriad of issues. My view is that we welcome anyone except — so our de facto policy is free migration. There needs to be firm policy on whom we will not accept in an impersonal way.

  • John Marriott 10th Jun '18 - 5:49pm

    Free Movement? Free Movement of what? How about the following?

    Putting the question of asylum seekers and retirees to one side, in future no non UK citizen should be considered for permanent or temporary residence here unless they have the offer of bone fide employment, the offer of a place of study or wish to join a spouse/partner already resident here and in gainful employment.

    If a non UK citizen is unfortunate enough to lose their job here they should be given a specific period of time to find another. If they are unsuccessful, they should be required to return to their country of origin. No vacancy should be advertised abroad until it has first been advertised in the UK.

    The above may sound draconian; but I gather that such rules already apply in quite a few EU countries. I don’t suppose many of you would agree; but I reckon that such a move might go a long way to address some of the concerns that immigration has caused in recent years.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '18 - 6:00pm

    Some questions:

    1) Is the general idea to have free movement of labour or free movement of people?

    2) Is the latter just a cover for the former?

    3) Is free movement being used as a justification for not tackling the high levels of unemployment we see in various parts of the EU? In other words, are young people being, in effect, told not to expect to find a job in their home area but instead should move to a different region or EU country?

    4) Instead of expecting people moving to always to where the jobs are, but maybe the housing isn’t, wouldn’t it be better to, at least sometimes, move the jobs instead?

  • Nom de Plume 10th Jun '18 - 6:26pm

    Hi John. Straw man. I am aware that other countries have restrictions and I don’t have a problem with them. Why the government hasn’t done any of this is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is simply easier to blame the immigrants. The only paragraph I would disagree with is the third one. It excludes residence by pensioners and those that have other sources of income. As far as EU citizens are concerned, the principle should be that they are not a burden on the host state. So, enough funds and health insurance.

  • John Martiott 10th Jun '18 - 6:57pm

    @Nom de Plume
    Thanks for the comment. I realise that my ‘suggestions’ are neither perfect nor comprehensive. My only concern about pensioners and thus with “other sources of income” Is that we could be in an Abramovich situation. However, considering the large number of UK retirees that live abroad, we certainly need a quid pro quo, so, better add them to the mix.

  • Peter Martin
    I think free movement within Europe is about putting the notion of EU citizenship as close to equality with national citizenship as possible within the obstacle that is the various national electorates. The EU is more of a political project based on the idea that economics as the only real argument. Hence, the debate tends to be reduced to the effect on things like GDP. IMO what advocates of this kind of thinking keep coming up against is the reality that Nation states are not just economic hubs. They’re legal and social structures with rules, customs, cultures and beliefs. There’s a kind of utopianism involved in the idea that people are the same from country to country, that commerce forms an almost metaphysical connection between peoples and that if only people listened they would see this. In reality cultures can be very different, people can be awkward, buying things from another nation doesn’t make you anymore connected to it than shopping at a super market bonds you with its shareholders and so on.

  • Nom de Plume 10th Jun '18 - 7:46pm

    @Glenn

    Cultures can be very different. In Europe they are not. Only the UK is looking to leave the EU. Exceptionalism. Economics is not a minor point.

  • None de Plume
    I never said economics was a minor issue, just that it is not the only issue or even the main one. Invoking exceptionalism seems more of a jibe than an argument. I just do not support the EU project, I don’t think Britain is the bestest or anything.. I actually suspect being less interested in our place on the World or European stage would be better for boring old domestic politics.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jun '18 - 9:14pm

    John Marriott – ‘The above may sound draconian; but I gather that such rules already apply in quite a few EU countries.’

    It is worth being clear here I think that the rules you describe in your post most definitely do NOT apply in other EU countries and could never be applied in the UK within the EU.

    There does seem to be this idea doing the rounds on remain-minded talkboards that somehow there is a tendency in the UK to ‘underenforce’ the EU rules. What is lacking has been a meaningful registration system which many (though not I believe all) other EU countries operate. The EU rules are extraordinarily wide-ranging – probably far more wide-ranging than many of the public really understands.

    I note in passing that most liberals would likely have a pink fit at the merest suggestion of a registration system commonplace in most of the rest of the EU. Certainly when my friend went to Belgium it was made very clear to her that she was expected to register and she would not be able to do much until she did.

    Other than in very, very specific circumstances there is very limited scope for intra-EU control (including non-EU family). Now, of course, some people are very happy about that. But at the very least there should be some rather more forthright understanding of what the EU rules actually mean. EU visa free movement means just that – no visa. An EU passport is not a visa. One can not ‘overstay’ or breach conditions.

    Indeed, as an aside it has been interesting to see how many EU citizens in the UK appear not to have understood the nature of EU free movement rules.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jun '18 - 9:29pm

    Peter Martin

    1 – People. Plainly.
    2 – Neofunctionalism in action.
    3 – Hard to say. The EU swears that there is no such thing as social dumping but p27 onward on here is quite the eye-opener http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/579001/IPOL_STU%282016%29579001_EN.pdf
    4 – Now let’s have none of that crazy talk.

    For me this matter is really simple despite the total of words written on it. If it were viable for 1.5m+ young UK un/underemployed to head to the A8 or A2 and get wages/housing/welfare and send home handsome remittances then we’d just have had a 95% REMAIN vote. As it is we’ve got a hopelessly asymmetric pattern that is doing few people any favours. I read that about 90% of newly qualified doctors leave Bulgaria. When I visit Eastern Europe it is hard to be positive about the dislocations caused in some places by depopulation.

    What one thinks about all this and does (if anything) is a far wider question but a lot of people on here give me the impression that they are kidding themselves.

  • John Marriott 10th Jun '18 - 9:29pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    Are you sure? Belgium for one certainly has a much firmer set of rules than we appear to have. By the way, the suggestions I put forward we’re not necessarily based on anything across the Channel or the North Sea. I just happen to think that a logjam needs to be broken. Regards to Puff. Perhaps we could do with some of his magic at the moment!

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jun '18 - 9:30pm

    Nom de Plume – ‘Cultures can be very different. In Europe they are not.’

    You’re not serious?

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jun '18 - 9:51pm

    John Marriott – The EU’s rules are extraordinarily wide-ranging. I make no point here about whether those are good or not. I simply state that within the EU there is very, very little scope to do much. The Belgian system, as I understand it (and I’m happy to be corrected) is about making sure that EU free movers are within those wide-ranging rules. So registered as a job seeker – OK. Rough-sleeping on a railway line outside Liege – not OK.

    And I don’t see Puff anymore. Third verse. Whole point of the song.

  • Nom de Plume 10th Jun '18 - 9:52pm

    @Little Jackie Paper

    I don’t know Hungary, Bulgaria or Romania. I know western and central europe reasonably well. Despite the language differences, I would maintain that they are culturally similar.

  • Martin
    That’s a sweeping statement. The cultures can have a lot of differences. The culture of Italy is different to Germany and France an so on. Japan is different again.. America is not really like Europe or Britain really. Mexico, different again. There is no such beast as the global village or world order. The idea that there is somewhat akin to a market forces and liberal version of the Marxist idea of the workers of the world uniting or the belief that history is going in one direction.. Things appear linear when really they branch out. Differences do not mean conflict or one being superior to another, but they are still differences. There are all kinds of local, cultural , historical, political and social factors at play within any society or societies.

  • Nom de Plume 11th Jun '18 - 5:57am

    @John Marriott

    I recalled that the Swiss had a vote on freedom of movement a few years ago. The end result was that the EU said it was possible to advertise jobs to locals first. That part of your suggestion should be possible.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/22/switzerland-votes-for-compromise-to-preserve-relations-with-eu

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 7:03am

    On the point of the homogeneity of European cultures, I’d have to say yes and no!

    On one level, everything looks superficially quite similar. Countries like the USA, Canada, and even Australia (since WW2) have populations which are, in large part, the result of diverse European immigration. Notwithstanding a few problems which have arisen when different groups bring historical enmities with them, the level of integration is high. When the Serbian and Croat football clubs play each other in Sydney, for example, there’s always a high police presence! But generally speaking it’s all manageable.

    But that doesn’t mean that Catalans or Basques want to live in the same country as Castilian Spanish back home in Europe. Or that Germans and French people want to do the same. We see the same pattern in the British Isles. Irish and English people are quite happy to share citizenship when they’re living in Australia. They are generally happy for their sons and daughters to marry each other. But Ireland has been a separate country for the best part of 100 years and there’s no sign of any reunification any time soon. Getting on for half of Scottish people want to live in a separate country from us English, even though it would be hard to find any English person who didn’t have some non English ancestry.

    We really all are much more tribal than is generally realised.

  • William Fowler 11th Jun '18 - 7:57am

    All this mixing up of nationalities and freedom of movement to 28 countries is fantastic, hopefully people would just laugh at the idea of going to war with people they already know and have interacted with – and that must be the core of the EU’s thinking, having suffered terrible wars in the past.

    However, the UK’s extraordinarily generous welfare system for the low paid does make the country very appealing to the unskilled and the way foreign families are given priority over single Brits for social housing is an absolute disgrace in the eyes of the British poor (taking up nearly ten percent of housing) – but that is what has to happen in the EU, all must be treated equally. That is why a five to ten year residence test is the way to square the circle on freedom of movement, discouraging the low skilled from coming here whilst not really affecting the higher earners. And it would be relatively simple to operate, the onus of proof on the applicant… and as it would be a non-continuous period Brits born here who have gone abroad and come back would still qualify.

    I keep going on about this because it is the only known solution to keeping freedom of movement in a way that would be acceptable to many leavers.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Jun '18 - 8:28am

    “Countries like the USA, Canada, and even Australia (since WW2) have populations which are, in large part, the result of diverse European immigration.”

    After the elimination/subjugation of the original native populations of those countries….

  • Neil Sandison 13th Jun '18 - 10:59am

    Nom de plume .I welcome people taking up employment and filling skill shortages but we must be realistic .Such sudden influx in population did have impacts for example inner urban schools were filled to capacity and english as a second language in some inner urban areas became the norm . A school very close to me had 29 different languages spoken and had to completely change their teaching staff and methods to cater for new arrivals .Private rented sector tenancies now make up the majority of lettings in my borough and rents have increased .Houses in multiple occupation are now replacing assured tenures for families .This is not the fault of those seeking a better life for themselves but a failure in government policy coupled with cuts in local government funding at a time .This poor management just gave the nationalist a drum to beat towards Brexit.

  • Nom de Plume 13th Jun '18 - 4:05pm

    @ Neil Sandison

    I was aware of the problems which would be caused by Blair suddenly opening up the labour market to the poorer eastern countries. It was foolish. Britain needs more housing. I will note that large cities voted remain, it was the shires,coastal areas and deprived areas in the north which predominantly voted leave. Little direct correlation with immigration levels. London’s schools, with many immigrants have been successful.

  • Nom de Plume 13th Jun '18 - 10:08pm

    There is the danger that Brexit -> increased deprivation -> increased anti-immigration feeling-> increased isolationism/ protectionism -> increased deprivation. A negative feedback loop. The economy is critical. Cuts are a response to a weak economy. The 2008 financial crisis casts a long shadow. Westminster plays dangerous games.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Jun '18 - 10:44am

    Non de plume .Agree it not a problem if numbers were evenly distributed across the UK but migrant populations over many centuries tend to congregate in certain localities particularly in inner urban areas where accomedation and work oppertunities are more available .Indeed it will have helped some cities that were suffering from acute population decline over many decades. Scotland and some parts of Wales desperately need incomers to remain sustainable .I agree market town and costal locations have not coped well .They have also seen the biggest land grab of open countryside for new greenfield housing (out of the financial reach of migrant households )as the indigenous population moves outward to our towns and villages and we overly protect the greenbelt around our cities .That in turn means more expenditure on infrastructure like roads schools and hospitals .

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