Freedom of movement and liberal overreach

Not every nuanced political point is a dog whistle for it’s crude cousin, and case in point is Nick Clegg’s recent column in the FT, arguing that the EU needs to consider wider caveats to the principle of freedom of movement that already exist, for its own sake and not just to improve the prospects of rapprochement with the UK.

Some reaction of my friends on social media consider this shameless scapegoating of immigrants. You might expect such a thing from some politicians, but surely not from one with such impeccable liberal and European credentials.

Free movement is not a economic problem, it makes us richer; it is not a problem impinging personal liberty, quite the opposite. It is a political problem: people don’t want it. In particular free movement agreements with poorer countries are seen as an act of charity we – the lower earners in our country – can ill afford. (It isn’t, neither the UK government nor any other EU government have ever been that charitable. It is rather a cheap price to pay for an expanded sphere of influence, larger markets, and not least winning the cold war, bringing much of Eastern Europe into the democratic world.)

Perhaps the question Nick is asking is this: is this a case of liberal overreach? Of pursuing a good policy too far and fast, and causing a backlash – not just Brexit, but further anti-immigration sentiment that might really undermine the founding principles of the EU and hurt the interests of the EU27.

Some will say that by asking this question you are on the wrong side of it. I don’t agree. Difficult questions often do have to be asked.

There’s a very long but worthwhile read on the subject of ‘liberal overreach’ at Bagehot’s Notebook entitled Some thoughts on the crisis of liberalism—and how to fix it (3 free articles per month). We won’t quite agree with his definition of liberalism, but it is close enough.

Bagehot places free movement within a more general overreach of globalisation:

The technocratic elite compounded the problem of over-reach with incompetence. The great liberal project of the past 40 years—globalisation—depended on a bargain between the elites and the masses: the elites promised that globalisation would produce higher living standards for broad swathes of the population. … The technocrats broke the contract. They not only failed to deliver macro-economic stability. They failed to deliver the boost in living standards in the West. They forgot about basic social justice: while blue-collar workers were crushed under history’s progressive chariot, bankers were saved from the consequences of a crisis that had been created by their greed and incompetence. … No wonder so many people feel that they have sold their democratic rights for a mess of pottage. No wonder the cry of “taking back control” resonates.

The solutions sound awfully Liberal Democrat: Tempering elitism with democracy; managerialism with self-organisation; globalism with localism and the hard with the soft.

Liberalism at its best should preserve a delicate balance between four opposing sets of principles: (1) elitism and democracy, (2) top-down management and self-organisation, (3) globalism and localism, and (4) what might be termed, for simplicity’s sake, the hard and the soft. The global elites—that is the people who run the world’s biggest companies, NGOs, and trans-national organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, of course, the European Union—have routinely emphasised the first of these two principles (elitism, top-down management, globalism and hard metrics). And in the process they have reduced one of the world’s richest philosophies into a desiccated hulk of its former self—a set of arid formulae that are united by the single fact that they advance the interests, psychological as well as material, of the world’s most powerful people.

And after warning us away from identity politics Bagehot finally exhorts us not to surrender to the populists. And I think that’s where the question becomes difficult, and for many of us painful. When can it ever be right to give up a little progress? Isn’t progress driven forward by a process of overreach? Wasn’t same sex marriage overreach, until it happened? And free movement in the EU has been around for so long that it is hardly very radical just to defend it.

The serious question for Bagehot, and Nick is this: Your analysis may be spot on, but the outcomes may be better if we keep pushing the pendulum regardless. How can you tell?

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • Adam Bernard 19th Jun '18 - 6:11pm

    We are liberals. We restrict people’s freedoms to prevent harm, not to appease unjustified fears (“political problems” as you put it).

    You wouldn’t tell someone who’s Black/gay/Jewish/whatever “sorry, we know that you’re a good person and valuable to society, but please go away because the public mood is that there are too many [Blacks/gays/Jews/whatevers] here already”? Would you?

  • What Adam said.

    Also, you don’t correct a misapprehension by pandering to it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Jun '18 - 6:34pm

    Adam Bernard – But I don’t think that is what is being said here. What is being said is that this looks like a case of free movement being an example of everything just being great as long as you are on the sweet end of the deal. The politics of that can’t just be disregarded. What I think is being said here is very sensible. Free movement is great, but take the people with you. Indeed it appears that a majority of REMAIN voters had at least SOME SORT OF reservation about free movement in its present form. There is much that should give pause for thought.

    Try p27 onwards here for example –

    Joe may well be right on his own terms about ‘progress’ but if you are on the rough end then there is a question about progress for who. The stark reality is that if 2+ young, un/underemployed UK people from depressed areas had all upped to the A8/A2 for work/wages/housing/welfare then we’d just have had a 95% REMAIN vote. But it is just not happening and to say as much is not an ideological capitulation to the hard right.

    Anyway, I’ll let everyone go for my throat now.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Jun '18 - 6:36pm

    Joe Otten – ‘Free movement is not a economic problem, it makes us richer’

    In that sentence who is, ‘us?’

  • *Free movement is not a economic problem, it makes us richer; it is not a problem impinging personal liberty, quite the opposite. It is a political problem: people don’t want it.*

    Have you considered that freedom of movement is not a problem of any kind because it’s *not a problem at all*? Just because some people perceive it to be a problem doesn’t make it one. If people think something is wrong that you know to be right, you educate them. What you do not do is to say, “Well, maybe you’re right”. That doesn’t solve the problem, it enhances it.

  • Adam Bernard 19th Jun '18 - 6:38pm

    Misapprehension is a good point. This survey showed people overestimating the number of EU immigrants THREEFOLD. People are angry at what they believe to be the case, not what is actually the case.

    How many people do you think you need to refuse, how many people do you need to deport, before people realise that they’re angry at a bogeyman that largely does not exist? When you do this and public services don’t magically improve, do you think people will say “oh, we were wrong?” Or will they say “we need to deport more people, and faster”? And you and Nick will be there to say “it’s a political problem, maybe we should just do what they want”.

  • John Marriott 19th Jun '18 - 6:40pm

    @Adam Bernard
    “We are Liberals” you say. Well, by your definition, that must count me out! Who said anything about ethnicity? As I have said on several occasions, if someone from anywhere in the world has a job to come to here, a course of study to undertake, or a relative to join, I’ve got no problems with that. However, just arriving at the airport or train station with no job and nowhere to live causes me, and, I might add, it would seem quite a few people in this country some problems. So, Adam and Jennie, does that make me and them racists, illiberal or something even worse? I guess in this matter, like Dave and Gordon, “I agree with Nick”.

  • *However, just arriving at the airport or train station with no job and nowhere to live causes me, and, I might add, it would seem quite a few people in this country some problems.*

    Sorry to hear that I cause you problems, because you just described what I did when I came to the UK. I found a job within two weeks, make a very decent living now. Don’t judge people you don’t know, and don’t assume that “The Immigrant” is a problem without evidence base.

  • Adam Bernard 19th Jun '18 - 6:54pm

    John: Does it “cause you some problems” if someone from (say) Leeds moves to (say) London without a job? Or is it only when they cross the Channel, because reasons?

    I’ll say it. Yes, I think it makes you illiberal. If their being here was actually causing harm, then — maybe — you’d have a case for restricting. But if the problems it causes you is just your offended sensibilities, then yes, saying that the answer is to restrict their freedom makes you illiberal.

    Now, we all have limits to our liberalism, I’m sure, but we all should be prepared to admit when that’s the case, and I’m asking you to admit that this is one of the situations where the policy you’re advocating is not in fact the liberal one.

  • Joseph Toovey 19th Jun '18 - 7:05pm

    I could, should I so choose, leave my house tomorrow, get on a train, and arrive at Birmingham New Street station “with no job and nowhere to live”. Would my doing that cause you or “quite a few other people in the country” problems? Would I be pilloried for damaging our economy orr culture or the fabric of society? Somehow, I doubt it. And if I’m to be allowed that right, then as liberals we must be *extremely* wary of denying it to others without the strongest of justification.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Jun '18 - 7:09pm

    Joe Otten – Wow. Touched a nerve.

    ‘even if there are some who lose out. Not least because the government will have more than enough extra tax revenues to compensate any losers, if that is a sound policy.’

    So the argument here is what? The economic and social dislocations are all OK because there are more French bankers paying tax to foot the benefits bill? Please tell me you can see the problem in that. Please tell me that you understand why some people might very well not see that as a reciprocal arrangement.

    Look, even if I were to accept your premise here you are working on the assumption that all of this constant. OK – ‘we’ (whoever that is) get a good deal on some level from young workers. What about the longer term. We have some idea of how that goes Are you saying that free movement is great just so long as the economics stack up? In that case whatever you are looking for it is not free movement.

    And all this is before we get to the effect this has elsewhere. 90% of Bulgarian doctors apparently up sticks on qualification. This open agenda is not doing a lot of people a lot of favours and to say as much is not unworthy and cynical.

    Anyway – world cup.

  • Adam Bernard 19th Jun '18 - 7:21pm

    Jackie: Are you saying that we should tell Bulgarians that for the good of their country they should stay locked within their borders? No, that would be cruel! We just want to make sure that nowhere else will accept them, which is the natural order of things.

    And we can’t let people go and live where they like! I mean, they might have found a friend or a partner abroad they want to live with, but sorry, “social dislocation”, we must forbid it, why aren’t you happy to live in the country you were born in, as sensible normal people are?

    Anyway, world cup.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Jun '18 - 7:26pm

    Adam Barnard

    ‘Are you saying that we should tell Bulgarians that for the good of their country they should stay locked within their borders?

    No. As you well know I’m saying that very large, very sudden influxes cause dislocations and, per the article, there is a very real set of economic and social questions surrounding that. What you make of that is another matter. What you can’t do is obliterate it and hope for the best.

    ‘No, that would be cruel!’

    Well, Bulgaria has gone down hill in the last few years to be honest.

    ‘And we can’t let people go and live where they like! I mean, they might have found a friend or a partner abroad they want to live with,’

    Yes. Like my wife.

  • Apart from the obvious fact that pandering to people who don’t want “foreigners” in the country is wrong, the other problem is that it doesn’t work.

    People think that the level of immigration is three times what it actually is. The reason isn’t just that people are terrible with numbers – it’s also that they count a lot more people as “immigrants” than the official stats do.

    What the majority of people count as an immigrant is anyone who isn’t white, anyone who doesn’t speak English fluently, or speaks English with a “foreign” accent. You can tell, because non-white people who were born in the UK are scared, rightly, of the xenophobia that the Brexit vote has brought out.

    Even if we closed the borders entirely – and the vast majority even of xenophobes wouldn’t actually want that – there would still be too many “immigrants” already in the UK for lots of people’s taste.

    Too many politicians of the liberal-left, including too many Lib Dems seem to think that there is a level, or type, or quality of immigration that would be acceptable. There really isn’t, while attitudes are as they are. And appeasing people, telling them that they are right to hate “immigrants”, is not a way to change those attitudes.

    We need to argue not with economics, but with personal stories. We need to say “these people are your friends, your neighbours, your colleagues, your family, these are people, with the same drives, the same needs, the same loves, the same hates as you. These are people, they want to live here for the same reasons that you do.” This is what worked with same-sex marriage the the LG bit of LGBT+ rights – convincing straight people to regard gay and lesbian people as people like them and not some “other” that is a threat to them.

    Pandering to their xenophobia is absolutely the opposite of what will convince people.

  • Steve Trevethan 19th Jun '18 - 8:55pm

    Might it help to consider the causes of migrations?
    Some migrations are significantly a matter of individual choice, which seems to be generally beneficial and fits with “free market” theory.
    Other migrations are not. Armed conflict is a serious cause of migration. Europe, North Africa and Arabia etc are experiencing mass migrations because of warfare. The conflicts and consequent chaos in Iraq and Libya etc. illustrate this.
    Another is global warming. Another is religious strife, manipulated and “bottom up”.
    Such appear to be the antithesis of the “free market.”
    All of these and similar causes need to be recognised and, if at all possible addressed as part of people movement discussions and actions.
    Is it consistent with “the free market” when richer nations deliberately set out to “harvest the brightest and best” of poor nations?

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Jun '18 - 9:37pm

    Martin – I would argue that there is a difference between free movement and an open-ended right of establishment. The former I have no issue with, the latter rather less so.

    France appeared to threaten to ignore the posted workers directive –

    Spain has already once suspended free movement for Romanians

    Several EU countries introduced border controls, Schengen notwithstanding during the refugee/migrant episode.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jun '18 - 9:49pm

    The EU is so much conflicted now over the problems of immigration, and so much in need of continued British contributions to its finances, that it does seem as Nick Clegg suggests (thanks, Joe, for this very useful link and discussion) that the principle of freedom of movement within the EU is being gradually modified to suit individual states’ interests, and could probably meet British requirements too. I have always thought that this should be possible.

    Far greater problems, it seems to me, beset all EU states including ours: the continued application of neo-liberal economics, to the detriment of ordinary people and further enrichment of the rich and powerful, as the Bagehot quote suggests; and the ultimate need to deter massive economic migration from African and other poorer states by an EU ‘Marshall plan’ to radically further their own economic development.

  • John Marriott 19th Jun '18 - 9:53pm

    I emigrated with my wife to Canada in 1970. I had a job to go to. She got one when we arrived. Had I not got a job offer in advance neither of us would have considered going. In fact it don’t think we would been allowed in as ‘Landed Immigrants’ without satisfying certain criteria. I had done the same as a student in West Germany in 1965. Before I started a Summer job I had to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) from the West German Embassy. So, yes, I do have a problem with what you describe. Times have obviously changed. Pleased that you have made a success of your life here. Will you be staying?

    @Joseph Toovey @Adam Bernard
    No problem with someone from Leeds rocking up in London or Birmingham was looking for a job. Every problem with someone from (you name it) jumping off the back of a lorry (extreme case) and disappearing into the black economy. Yes, it does happen.

    In my humble opinion, and it would seem that of quite a few people, freedom of movement is the real reason why we are now going through the traumas of Brexit. I know that Nick Clegg hasn’t been flavour of the month for some time; but if someone with his EU credentials is prepared to voice concerns which could, unless handled sensibly, endanger the whole ‘European project’ we should all be questioning some of our cherished beliefs. Mark Wright has, possibly unintentionally, hit the nail on the head. We need MANAGED migration not a free for all.

  • Mark Right
    I sort of agree. But I think the basic problem with applying this to the EU is that free movement is about promoting EU citizenship as equal(ish) to national citizenship and is also connected to free movement of capital. It’s part and parcel of what the EU is. The wider issue is that there is a kind of dismissal of the realities of nation states in some liberal circles that doesn’t seem to grasp that countries are legal frameworks, that all elections are basically national and that they work by majoritarian consent. And that the world without borders thing is not actually popular enough anywhere in the world to gain traction. In some ways it’s a utopian dream based on a universalism that isn’t universally attractive to actual people,

  • Helen Dudden 19th Jun '18 - 10:45pm

    How about the shortage of housing? The stretched NHS. Is that an important factor? There are very few NHS dentists as a health condition cause several of my teeth to crack. I’ve paid for orthotics and orthopaedic shoes, there is not enough funding. Quite expensive to say the least. I’m not against anyone, I have a Spanish grandchild, also French connection. I think that this is what is being asked. How do we build enough, and make the infrastructure strong enough to cope with a larger population.

  • Migration pressure is going to continue to grow and countries around the world will seek to close borders. The USA is separating children from their parents and detaining them on the Mexican border. It has been reported tonight that the US will withdraw from participation in the United Nations human rights council.
    There are 3m Syrian refugees in Turkey waiting to cross to Europe. There is a black market in organ sales in Istanbul in which desperate people are selling Kidneys to pay for passage with people traffickers.
    The new Italian government is closing its ports to NGO’s bringing refugees from Libya and Angela Merkel is under intense pressure to close Germany’s borders. There was a Hungarian politician this week claiming that Hungary was a multi-cultural society until Word War 1, when Britain and France destroyed the Hapsburg empire. Since then they have become a mono-cultural society and want to keep it that way.
    Freedom of movement in the EU has to be considered in the context of these external pressures. In an ideal world we could all roam the earth as we please, but as Glenn notes this is not facing the realities of the way nation states seek to protect the integrity of their territories. Managed migration means compromise that protects the interest of the most vulnerable. In the EU, this means transition periods for the absorption of new member states and freedom of movement to work or retire on a home country pension in other EU states. For EU citizens unable to find work or otherwise support themselves there has to be a right of return to their home country if EU cohesion is to be maintained.

  • Martin
    I dunno why that is. It depends how you define problem. The basic problem re-EU immigrants as far as I can tell is that the vast majority of the electorate don’t want mass immigration from anywhere and repeatedly say so in survey after survey. IMO it’s mostly down to general argument about control, a contractualist bent, a streak of small islander conservatism, the feeling that it was imposed rather than asked for and things of that sort. You could equally ask why do you think it should be imposed on them and why is it not possible to argue the case from a position where it is not already happening? I live in a multicultural city, my near ancestors were not British and I like migrants considerably more than most of the people who oppose immigration, but that is neither here nor there. What I believe is that in a democracy you don’t get to impose and that to me is the basic reason the debate keeps coming up. You get permission before you do something, not after you’ve done it and if you don’t have enough support then you don’t get to do it. To me the job of politics is essentially to represent, rather than lead. It’s a community, local view as opposed to a big idea view.

  • Martin,

    I am sure you are aware of the internal pressures Angela Merkel and other European leaders are under. It is to close borders to illegal immigration. If you ignore the context of the debate in Europe, you will never be able to understand why there are increasing calls for greater restrictions on freedom of movement for EU citizens in some of these countries.

  • John Marriott 20th Jun '18 - 6:48am

    Spot on, Glenn. Welcome to the ranks of the illiberals!

  • William Fowler 20th Jun '18 - 6:56am

    “No EU state would agree to restrictions on its own citizens no more than Wales, through the Welsh parliament would agree to rules that prevented the Welsh from moving to England. ”

    But the Welsh can limit govn jobs to those who can speak Welsh, ditto many EU countries… and the UK is free to apply any residence test it likes for benefits, tax credits etc as long as it is applied equally to Brits. I think the main objection to EU immigration is the perception (which may be false) that poor EU families and other immigrants can turn up here and take social housing at the expense of local people who do not have kids.

    I think freedom of movement is fantastic for individuals but you either need to be financially self-sufficient or have a job lined up rather than trying to slot into our hugely generous benefits/tax credit system unless you have been toiling away for five to ten years.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '18 - 7:01am

    I may seem a silly question, but instead of always expecting people to move where the jobs are, but probably the housing isn’t, why not put some effort into moving the jobs instead?

    That way we could have as much free movement as anyone wanted. Liberal principles would remain intact! It could be that people prefer the weather in Malaga to Manchester and the problem of free movement, then, could be a net decline in the UK population. Still we can worry about that if and when it happens!

    It’s not just an EU issue. What’s the point of us all being pulled, for economic reasons, into London and the SE of England when there’s much more room to breathe in other parts of the country?

  • James Baillie 20th Jun '18 - 7:50am

    I can see very few arguments against freer movement here that don’t boil down to “if people don’t like it we shouldn’t argue for it”. This misses the point of having a liberal political party. Our role is not to find out what people want right now and then call for it: our role is to find out what people’s problems are, advocate liberal solutions to them, and then persuade people to vote for those. That’s literally why we’re here. Why on earth should we advocate for the restriction of people’s liberty, liberty we know isn’t harmful? This seems to me to be the core point I can’t get my head around here.

    But to take on some of the practical arguments:

    > Re infrastructure, this is a governance problem not a free movement problem. Migrants pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits, by a fairly hefty margin. Yes, we should target infrastructure spending better, but immigrants are a solution as far as public service spending is concerned, not a problem.

    > Re “it’s democracy and we should ask people” – should we not a) consider the picture being presented to voters and b) also ask the immigrants? I am a firm believer in not taxing people without representing them – I don’t think it’s legitimate to keep asking one arbitrarily defined population segment X “do you want to accrue more benefits at the expense of this other population segment Y” without giving Y a say and then claiming this is “democracy”, which seems to be where many centrist arguments on immigration policy end up.

    > Re absurdist comparisons to the West Bank: this seem to result from confusing “movement” (which is fine) with “armed takeover” (which, to clarify, is not fine, and is also not the same thing).

    I have become increasingly sure over time that “immigration management” style pandering only hurts our case in the long run – people exercised as anti-immigrant voters won’t vote for us anyway, it depresses turnout among our natural supporters, and it only throws meat to the authoritarians who get the window of debate helpfully pushed in their direction. We have to be brave on this and push back on the myths, or we’ll just be fighting/accepting a managed retreat into isolationism.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Jun '18 - 8:02am

    No one answered on the problems of housing, and the continued struggle the NHS faces.

  • Martin Walker 20th Jun '18 - 8:31am

    I’m all for asking difficult questions. In all honesty, I don’t think the question of ‘Should we restrict something that is economically and socially beneficial, and a fundamental principle of ours, because of the inaccurate and often xenophobic perceptions of some people who will never support us?’ should be a very hard question for us to answer.

    On housing, which has been raised, restrictions of freedom of movement will be catastrophic at a time when we need a 40% increase in the rate of housebuilding to meet need, in an industry which is already very heavily dependent on it. It will slow down the rate of housebuilding at a time it needs to accelerate, and rising labour costs will make a number of sites unviable.

  • Mark Wright 19th Jun ’18 – 8:48pm
    A moment of sanity, thanks Joe. When I see liberal media streams filling with people accusing Nick Clegg – of all people – of “pandering to racism” I’m afraid it seems clear to me that progressives have simply lost the plot…………….I wonder, by the way, if these ideological opponents of managing migrations are big supporters of, say, Israelis moving unrestricted into the West Bank (which Lib Dem have spent two generations saying is an outrage), and Han Chinese moving wholesale into Tibet (another “outrage”, usually), and so on. I guess Palestinians and Tibetans are just racists for opposing un-managed migration into their communities. As were all the native peoples of countless places that experienced and lamented colonial settlement against their will – just a bunch of racists………………………………..

    Dear, oh dear. If a defence of Clegg has come to such nonsense then he is in trouble.

    If immigrants to the UK used their military/judicial systems to destroy existing communities, to build their own settlements, or forcibly imposed their own government on the population then that is not ‘immigration’ that is ‘invasion’.

  • @Helen Dudden

    Yes, the shortage of housing is a problem at the moment so I suggest limiting second and third home ownership, restricting corporate landlords so properties don’t stand empty, requiring house building companies to build houses on the land that they have bought but not yet developed and whilst we are at it, ban marriage break up. Clearly, I have strayed into sarcasm, but honestly, I am getting fed up of every ill in society being blamed on the immigrant. (Many of whom will incidentally be sleeping several to a room, so therefore will not be taking up masses of housing.) It is very lazy thinking and problem solving. As for the NHS, it is management of the resources that is often the problem, eg with costly procurement contracts and “consumer” behaviour. What about all eg the alcohol-fuelled use/unnecessary use/waste of A&E at weekends? I don’t advocate an “open door” policy, but let’s actually bother to look at what’s really going on in society, please.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Jun '18 - 8:51am

    Eastleigh High Street, yesterday, the ground floor window to my little Victorian house is wide open in the hot weather. I am shamelessly eavesdropping as people go by. It takes five conversations of sets of passers by until I hear English spoken. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But it is interesting that it would usually come under the working title of “things that should not be mentioned”.

  • OnceALibDem 20th Jun '18 - 9:01am

    Freedom of movement without limits was never part of the EU treaty.

    But Lib Dems talk of freedom of movement usually only in an EU context. In the 1950s there was a general right for any commonwealth citizen to live in the UK. If Freedom of movement in the EU is so paramount then why not return to that policy for other countries.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Jun '18 - 9:04am

    @Peter Martin
    “instead of always expecting people to move where the jobs are, but probably the housing isn’t, why not put some effort into moving the jobs instead? ”
    A question which should be considered – however….

    Do you expect this to operate on an international scale? If so what do you do about those areas of the planet whose populations are migrating away due to climate change? Not a lot of point in moving jobs to places which are becoming less and less inhabitable…

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '18 - 9:06am


    “I am getting fed up of every ill in society being blamed on the immigrant”.

    You must know very well that this isn’t what everyone is saying. How about this too, as an example of “very lazy thinking”?

    The simple fact is that people move from where the jobs aren’t to where the jobs are. Often they also are moving from where the housing is to where the housing isn’t. Or where the school places are to where they aren’t. Or where the hospitals are to where they aren’t. This creates the problems we are discussing and which we need to discuss. So let’s have a little less “lazy thinking” and start to look at the whole picture.

    The solution to EU unemployment has to be about more than encouraging those of working age, to move to Germany, the Netherlands or the UK, with just the the elderly moving in the opposite direction ie retiring to places like Spain and Italy.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '18 - 9:13am

    @ Nonconformistradical,

    Notwithstanding the effects of climate change Andalusia isn’t “uninhabitable”. When the British government starts to evacuate Gibraltar or people stop wanting to go holidays to Marbella you might have a point.

    Until then it’s just a very silly argument.

  • James.
    But then why should you or a smaller undefined section of the public decide? The reason you do not ask the migrants is because the reality of our democratic system is defined within national borders, with a legal framework and a defined national electorate. Imagine you’re organising an office party. You all take a vote . The majority of people want to go to one place and a small number insist that they don’t want to and should have final say because they are nicer or something, plus they don’t need permission and the parameters of the workplace should not apply to who gets to decide? Then why pretend to believe in democratic decisions at all and why be surprised if the other office workers all get together and uninvited you?
    I’m not saying people should not make their case, but it is possible to make it without believing it should be imposed despite a failure to gain enough support. IMO there has been too much of a shift towards institutional liberalism and as a result contempt for the electorate sometimes bubbles to the surface which manifests itself in an inability to see the difference between a popular majoritarian democracy and populism. Hence whenever the electorate fail to endorse the institutional liberal view there is a existential meltdown and claims that democracy is failing by distressed institutional liberals.

  • I’m sure I read somewhere that the basic distinction is between those who imagine a country as being like a shopping centre, ie, a public space where everybody is free to come and go unless there’s some specific good reason to keep them out (eg, they’re been caught stealing); and those who see a country as a family home, where guests are generally welcome but only if they are invited (no random person has the ‘right’ to barge into your family home, as they have a right to enter a public shopping centre) and they are expected to conform themselves to the mores of the family, rather than expecting the family to change to suit them.

    And if it’s a family home, and some vote needs to be taken as to what to do, like whether to get satellite TV, then of course the guests don’t get a vote. The house doesn’t belong to them; it belongs to the family.

  • @Peter Martin,

    Thanks for your comment and your criticism.

    I don’t think that everyone on this board is saying that. However, I want to challenge comments like Helen’s because I think many people in society are saying exactly that. I do believe (possibly erroneously) that many people hold the view that no immigration = no more problems in society, which I believe is not the case and is an idea I would like to challenge. Particularly, I was concerned because the comment said “the” problems of the NHS, rather than a phrase such as “additional problems” or “further problems” which would at least allow for the acknowledgement that there are other/many causes for difficulties in the public sector and societal infrastructure.

    For me, this is part of looking at the whole picture, and should be open for comment/analysis especially if it is raised as an issue.

  • James Baillie 20th Jun '18 - 11:13am

    Glenn: I accept democratic opinion by way of accepting parliamentary democracy. If we can’t sell liberal principles to the public, we lose elections, and we wait it out and try again next time. My argument isn’t really on that subject – it’s on the question “what is the right policy for the Liberal Democrats to adopt and campaign for”. I don’t think some extra-democratic force should just impose our policies, I think we should adopt them, campaign for them at all levels of government from local up to Westminster and European, and actually thereby be distinctive enough to start standing out and winning things again.

    @Dav Yes. I’m definitely in the camp that thinks likening a country to a family home with migrants as guests is very strange – guests in my flat certainly don’t pay rent, and if I did take on co-tenants who were paying more than I was toward communal costs then I’d certainly expect them to have a fair say in household decisions! Guests (aka tourists) of course shouldn’t have a say in what goes on, but taxpaying long-term residents can’t, I don’t think, be analogised to guests unless we were going to give them remittance of taxes as well.

  • James Baillie 20th Jun '18 - 11:15am

    @Mark Wright: Nations and destinations don’t have a will, the concept of a will simply doesn’t apply to an abstract concept in that way. People have wills. Nor indeed should we understand “nation” as synonymous with “community” – nation-states are as likely to be the ones preventing community traditions from being protected as to be doing the protecting. For issues like property purchase, those are better dealt with by taxation than restricting movement: the problem with for example wealthy people buying up all of Hawaii is that it’s creating a skewed land market and pushing locals out of being able to buy housing. It doesn’t specifically have anything to do with the ethnicity of the incomers, any more than the pressure on land prices where I grew up in Norfolk is a problem that means we should ban Londoners from moving up there – do you think that would be a good solution to that particular issue? If not, why conflate a problem of wealth dynamics with a problem of movement dynamics?

    As to claiming that I’m against protecting traditions, distinctiveness, and history, that’s a silly strawman, doubly so given you’re throwing it at a historian whose interests include traditional music and storytelling. The fact is that keeping traditions and traditional cultures alive has nothing to do with population movements, because people aren’t walking ethnic stereotypes that “dilute” or “purify” cultures they walk into. Much excellent work being done to keep English folk traditions alive is being done by people from recent generation immigrants in many areas. Cultural isolationism doesn’t protect traditional culture at all effectively, and frequently leads to loss of traditions and extremely warped historical narratives being better able to take hold because ossified traditions end up decaying. These are often encouraged by statist and nationalist politics because it’s easier to appeal to people on the basis of a flat, shallow, “nation state” identity than deal with actual communities with their own cultures (as I term it, plastic flag syndrome). Effective protection of diversity of cultures and history is something I’m all in favour of, and it’s something that means challenging, not accepting, a world of heavily bordered, heavily centralised, nation-states.

  • I’m definitely in the camp that thinks likening a country to a family home with migrants as guests is very strange.

    Fair enough, but it’s worth remembering that that is not a universal, or even necessarily (outside of certain demographics) a very common view.

  • (Perhaps it makes more sense if you think of the family as the owners of the house, and the guests as the tenants, who pay rent but who don’t have any say over, for instance, whether the house gets sold, because they don’t own it?)

  • Politics is the art of the possible and that is defined by our democratic institutions. As long as we remain a democracy a policy is essentially impossible if it does not appeal to the majority of those who vote. Thus the art of politics is taking the people with you and the people are not stupid.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 20th Jun ’18 – 10:18am
    @ James Baillie and expats………………….So your only problem with colonial settlement is that sometimes the settlers have guns? If they didn’t have guns it wouldnt be a problem? So if large number of rich Westerners simply bought up all the property in developing nations/islands and moved in, changing the culture and demographics of the destination against their will, that would be just fine. And if the governments of these nations took actions to try to prevent or limit this change they would be just racists? Right, I get it – you’re saying that any attempt by a community to protect their distinctiveness, traditions and history is racist……………………

    I note you now preface your name with Cllr. It doesn’t add gravitas to your argument; colonial settlement is not immigration.
    As for your, “rich Westerners simply bought up all the property in developing nations/islands and moved in, changing the culture and demographics of the destination against their will, that would be just fine?”, red herring, that, again, is colonisation.
    In my lifetime the ‘culture and demographics’ of the UK has changed, mostly due to immigration, for the better. As a nation, the recent rise in xenophobia aside, we have become far more at ease with different colours and creeds than in the, so called, ‘golden age’ of the 1950-60s.
    You wriie, “Right, I get it”…..Clearly, you don’t

  • One thing as a party we’re not typically good at is winning the ordinary person round to our point of view. We come across as extreme, not listening, obsessed by things that don’t matter to the average Joe (not you specifically, Joe Otten, Joes generally!).

    Our positions on the EU generally and immigration are two cases in point. The average person just can’t understand how we could support so enthusiastically things that they’ve been told from all sides are bad for us. We may well be right – and I happen to think we are – but as a rule of thumb, telling them that they’re wrong and bad people for daring to question our view is not a very good way at going about winning them round. It’s not good enough to say that those who don’t agree with us aren’t going to support us. While there are some at the UKIP-end of the spectrum who this may be true for, the vast majority of people do have concerns about immigration but could be won round; just telling them they’re wrong isn’t going to cut it. We have to find a way to connect with these sceptical moderates; to do so I believe we need to change the language.

    For example, Tony Blair successfully changed the debate around crime – and the ever increasing need to be seen as “tough” by coming up with the slogan “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” – moderates bought into this as it allayed their fears that being smarter (and whisper it more liberal) on crime meant being softer and weaker. We have to try to do the same with the immigration debate.

  • @expats
    I am not convinced that most of the cultural changes to society are because of immigration. I would argue that eg multinational business etc have had an equal, if not greater affect. I would cite the introduction of Black Friday as a case in point.

    I am open to discussion on this though.

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Jun '18 - 12:57pm

    One of the problems about this discussion is that freedom of movement for EU citizens has been accompanied by draconian measures against immigration from other parts of the world, resulting in the appalling treatment of the children of the Windrush generation. This is because governments have accepted the idea that immigration should be limited. So there are many people living here who have close relations for whom the conditions of returning to this country or coming here to join their families are extremely difficult to meet. This has exacerbated the feelings about freedom of movement within the EU.
    Liberalism is about balancing the rights of the individual rather than giving everyone the freedom to do everything they want and I believe this is an issue in which we must say “ if we were living in a Lib Dem society what would we do?” I’m afraid that those who say that this is a simple issue caused by racism and therefore shouldn’t be discussed are confused about what Liberalism is. We have to face up to the causes of racism and tackle them. Being fearful that scarce resources will be allocated to those who have no links with their community and therefore won’t be available to people in need who already live there seems like a human failing to me and we all have those. I hope that in a Lib Dem society people wouldn’t feel they are competing for scarce resources, that people wouldn’t need foodbanks, that the sick and disabled would receive the benefits and treatment they need and be treated with respect, that children would receive the education they need to fulfill their potential regardless of their background and that the elderly would receive financial support when they can no longer work. Then we can educate people about immigration and racism and show them that their fears are groundless.
    I believe, given present circumstances, we as Liberals should be seeking to show people that it isn’t the stranger who is at fault but our own domestic policies.

  • Geoffrey Payne 20th Jun '18 - 1:03pm

    Well I must say this is absolutely fascinating.
    The “technocrats broke the contract” well indeed. Wealth was being created and not being redistributed, and so those on lower incomes did not benefit, stopped supporting the Lib Dems and instead supported Brexit.
    Yes that does show up the huge opportunity missed by the Liberal Democrats during the Coalition. We were too ideologically close to them under Nick Clegg’s leadership and virtually gave up on the idea of redistributing wealth before we started. We were promised as an alternative “social mobility” but that only relied on education policy that was not going to benefit those not in education.
    I hope the lessons have been learnt.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '18 - 1:03pm

    @ Nonconformist Radical @ James Baille

    “Do you expect this (ie employment equalisation -PM) to operate on an international scale?”

    It has to operate in the area of free movement. Which in the case of the EU is international but not globally international.

    If unemployment is excessively high in the US State of Mississippi (for example) it would be the responsibility of the Federal Government in the USA to direct Federal spending there until the situation improved. It does do this and arguably it should do more.

    But the EU has ignored this aspect of the free movement zone completely. As a consequence parts of the EU are being depopulated which can’t be in anyone’s interest. At the same time we have social disquiet due to high levels of immigration in other parts.

    It’s all highly predictable and to be expected. It won’t be solved by those on the right blaming those immigrants and those on the supposedly progressive centre left accusing those who are worried about having to compete with immigrant labour in the housing and employment markets of racism. It doesn’t help to say things like: ” Migrants pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits, by a fairly hefty margin….. but immigrants are a solution …….not a problem.”

    We end up with the two sides talking past each other. Immigration can be both a solution and a problem simultaneously. If I want a cheap plumber it’s a solution. If I’m a plumber worried about being undercut it’s a problem.

    Neither can we measure people’s worth by how much tax they pay or whether they are net contributors. Or if anyone thinks we can they might like to explain just how the scale should be set.

  • When I was in Bulgaria a few moths ago a taxi driver grumbled to me about the English people who go to Bulgaria and buy houses in the rural areas to do up and have as holiday or retirement homes. This was based on his parents experience in the village in which they live. I think he welcomes tourists as long as they don’t overstay their welcome. This I think is a natural reaction – one which can be seen in many parts of the U.K. when faced with incomes from the South East.
    However I believe that the huge interest in immigration arises from the images of people travelling large distances in large numbers. They are mainly fleeing from countries in the grip of wars and disturbance. We need to think of our policies about how we involve ourselves in other countries. We might consider how many people we are driving out of a country when we drop bombs. I know our arms industry is very profitable, but we need to consider whether it is right to sell arms to nations when we know they are likely to be used to bomb civilians. In fact we might consider why we need to spend so much money on what we call defence.

  • Chrissie 20th Jun ’18 – 12:[email protected], Chrissie 20th Jun ’18 – 12:35pm
    @expats..I am not convinced that most of the cultural changes to society are because of immigration. I would argue that eg multinational business etc have had an equal, if not greater affect. I would cite the introduction of Black Friday as a case in point…
    I am open to discussion on this though…………………….

    In my youth a Vesta ‘curry’ was exotic and spaghetti came in tins (or grew on trees). In Bournemouth a black/brown face was remarkable.
    The influx of Commonwealth citizens changed all that and now the British culture some seem so desperate to preserve is that of the Chinese/Indian takeaway and the ‘open all hours’ corner shop (usually run by someone fro the Indian sub-continent whose children are top of their class at school and destined for college).
    The same ill founded resentment (taking ‘our’ jobs’ whilst simultaneously ‘sponging on the state) met by those Commonwealth immigrants has been transferred to those from the EU and those displaced in wars of our making.

  • @Peter Watson

    Throwaway comment? Hmm. I am certainly not intending it to be flippant in any way. Rather, I simply want to be able to respond the assertions people make about the affects of immigration on society. Is it immigration that is solely or even the largest thing responsible for the problems with housing? Is this indisputable fact? I am not yet sure that it is (as I stated earlier in this discussion). I do not suggest there will be no effect at all, but I would like it to be acknowledged that governmental policies and other things eg corporate behaviour also play a substantial role in forming the current situation.
    Therefore the purpose of my post(s) are: 1. To ask why people go “straight for the immigration” issue. Why not use some of that hostility to tackle housebuilding companies, for example? 2. To challenge, without malice, that view (just as you are challenging me) 3. To suggest alternative explanations for the problems that people are facing.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '18 - 3:08pm

    @ Sue Sutherland,

    “I hope that in a Lib Dem society people wouldn’t feel they are competing for scarce resources, that people wouldn’t need foodbanks, that the sick and disabled would receive the benefits and treatment they need and be treated with respect, that children would receive the education they need to fulfill their potential regardless of their background and that the elderly would receive financial support when they can no longer work”

    I agree this all should be possible once we get away from austerity minded neoliberal economics. Whether this is ever going to be described as “Lib Dem society” I wouldn’t like to say. It sounds more like what socialists believe will happen after the overthrow of capitalism. Still, we’ll have to see. I’d even guarantee everyone who wanted to work a job with a living wage. That way we could end the concept of involuntary unemployment.

    So what happens if we are still part of the EU when this happens? Do we offer the same deal ie housing, health care, education, jobs, social benefits etc etc to everyone there who might think this looks much better than the German imposed economic austerity back home? Is it reasonable for us to solve all the EU’s problems as well as our own?

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Jun '18 - 3:17pm

    Peter Martin, I definitely agree with your first sentence. Is it irony or cynicism that makes Nick Clegg and Joe Otten, both advocates for austerity, try to tackle immigration policy rather than abandon their pro austerity economics?

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Jun '18 - 3:28pm

    We are all, quite rightly, concerned about the rise in racial hatred and lack of compassion in several western democracies including ourselves and the US. What do we all have in common over the last few decades? An adherence to austerity economic policies. I agree that we must be aware of the potential for the rise of populist politics and a slide into fascism. So why aren’t we campaigning against these economic policies which damage the poorest and provide a breeding ground for fascism. An essential part of the rise of Nazism was the inflation which Germany suffered and the empoverishing terms imposed after WWI.

  • I am amazed that anyone still believes in what is described as austerity and that anything has been achieved by the use of a policy of favouring the haves over the have nots. It really is time that the party adopted an economic policy which would address the real problems of inequality in our country.

  • Good piece, Joe. I, like no doubt many or all Lib Dems, consider free movement to be one of the main benefits of EU membership, but it is clear that for many in the country it is not a benefit in itself but a price of membership from which are derived other benefits (freer trade, prosperity etc).

    UK governments have sought for decades to persuade people of the benefits of free movement for a long time, but an insufficient number have been convinced and so we now find ourselves in the position of throwing out not only the baby and the bathwater but the entire bathroom’s fittings. So it has always struck me that a little compromise on the ideal of free movement of people would serve not only the UK well, but also the wider EU. Nick is better informed than I am but I am afraid I don’t necessarily share his optimism that EU leaders have reached that conclusion.

  • In my local paper we recently had a comment on an article about a burglary

    ” Here we go again – scummy immigrant who’ve wrecked their own area coming over here to wreck ours! ”

    Last Updated: 2nd May 5:26 pm

    Now i’m sure several commentators on this thread would approve the sentiment the only problem is the real comment was

    “Here we go again – scummy scousers who’ve wrecked their own area coming over here to wreck ours!”

    The issue of immigration isn’t a problem of immigrants it is a problem for us as a society. Why do we import people

    1. Because we like cheap Labour
    2. Because we don’t want to pay to train our own people
    3. Because we can’t be bothered to enforce the rules
    4. Because it give us someone to blame for the fact we don’t fix problems (like under investing in the NHS, infrastructure and our people)

    as long as we can blame immigrants, or scousers or townies or some other “other” we don’t have to blame ourselves, but as a society we need to look in the mirror and accept we are far from blameless and blaming someone else won’t solve our problems.

  • There is no way of stopping free movement cry a number of posters. Actually there is we chose not to take it. Easier to blame immigrants than do something, tis the way of quite a large number of Brits.

    One of the mysteries of the Brexit debate ahead of the referendum was why David Cameron and the then home secretary Theresa May failed to point out that the British government has, under EU law, been in a position to “take control” of EU immigration in the same way as other member states have done.

    A recent analysis by the Centre for European Reform points out: “No EU citizen has a fundamental, unlimited right to move freely across the EU. To be lawfully resident in another (EU) member state, EU citizens need to be working, studying or able to prove they are self-sufficient. Otherwise they can be kicked out.”

    The CER also points out that “the European Court of Justice has confirmed the right of member-states to refuse supplementary pensions, unemployment benefits and child credits to non-working EU migrants.” As a result “the EU is moving towards less, not more, access to benefits for EU migrants, precisely at the time Britain is leaving.”

    As an EU citizen who has, without a specific job to go to, crossed the borders of a member state in order to work, I can vouch for the accuracy of this assessment. Moving to Belgium in 2003 without employment, my wife and I were asked by officials whether we already had work in Belgium and, if not, how were we proposing to finance our stay.

    We had to show documentation to prove we had an adequate income and so to demonstrate that we would not start trying to claim on the Belgian social security system. We had to get Belgian identity cards. We also had to register with the local commune. A week after renting an apartment we had a visit from the local police who were checking that we were actually living there.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jun '18 - 8:14pm

    I’m in favour of some restrictions on free movement but I think people who have their own source of income like I have and had when I moved to France should be allowed to migrate. If France wanted a year’s worth of account’s showing a good income then I wouldn’t have been able to move. People shouldn’t be turning up to countries with no job and little money if they can help it but it’s important to not have too many restrictions.

    UK is only a small country so we need to understand why people are anxious about immigration.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Jun '18 - 9:14pm

    Frankie – It is true that the Belgians as I understand it have taken an interest in people who do not meet the terms of the directive and do have a registration system that is very stringent and seeks to identify people who are not within the terms of free movement rules. A friend of mine recently went to Italy and I gather that the Italians also have a registration system that is strongly enforced. Certainly I believe that registration in both Belgium and Italy is in practice not optional.

    However an EU passport is not a visa. The whole point here is visa FREE travel. You can’t ‘overstay’ an EU passport or ‘breach terms.’ This article sets out out pretty well – Interestingly in the FT article Nick Clegg suggests that Germany is looking to impose entry bans – that point is dealt with here

    That second link gives a pretty good account of when EU nationals can potentially be expelled. It is very, very limited. There is a very interesting, if rather theoretical argument about how the Treaty exemptions regarding public policy could be applied – I suspect the ECJ would spit that out, but it is certainly an interesting thought and I have been a bit surprised that the public policy exemptions have not been tested thoroughly to my knowledge.

    I would note in passing that liberals would likely have a pink fit if we ever had the Belgian system in the UK.

    Of course none of this negates the wider point about the lack of meaningful reciprocity. If 2m young un/underemployed were currently in the A8 then we would just have had a 95% in vote. It is that lack of reciprocity, not the minutiae of EU Directives and process that is the real matter at hand here to my mind. What to do about that is another matter.

  • Jackie,
    On the whole people migrate to were the money is. Always has been the case always will. As Brexit will make us poorer immigration from the EU will cease to grab the headlines as it will slows to a trickle. The problem is our society relies on cheap labour and recruiting skilled people from outside the UK. Now unless we change and/or do without we will need to replace the EU migrants with alternatives; I expect the alternatives will be even less palatable to those that hate free movement.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Jun '18 - 10:24pm

    Cllr Mark Wright – I am open to the argument that UK judges may be over implementing at least to some extent. I had seen the thing about rough sleepers but my understanding is that rough sleeping IN ITSELF does not constitute a problem under the EU rules. Provided that the person is doing qualifying activity or is related to someone doing qualifying activity then rough sleeping in itself is not an issue. What you think about that is another matter, but nothing in the EU rules says that a person has to be housed whilst undertaking qualifying activity. Or at least that is my understanding of the ruling you describe.

    There was also a very interesting case recently – KA v Belgium. I”m surprised it didn’t get more publicity. This gives some idea of the limits of the Belgian registration system – Of course the single market can’t possibly function and will grind to a halt without stuff like that judgment. Apparently.

    As you say the circumstances where EU nationals can be removed are minute.

    This said, I still maintain that the issue here is really reciprocity, not details.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Jun '18 - 10:40pm

    Joe Otten – ‘they, like you, are not the friend of the worker.’

    I did touch a nerve didn’t I.

    Look, this has been done to death. Free movement and its controversies are symptom, not cause. The root issue here is the open agenda and associated brands of capitalism. If you think that ‘open’ is a good thing then fine. Argue for full openness to flows of capital, people and whatever else tickles your fancy. I believe that ‘open’ has the effect of causing dislocations such as wage arbitrage and pressures on infrastructure. I also believe, in short that a more managed approach is necessary. If you want a *MORE* managed society with things like planned housing, health care capacity, school provision, transport infrastructure welfare and the like then you need a *MORE* managed population and not a free for all.

    Neither of us really has any great insights that hasn’t been put far better elsewhere.

    Yes, you are quite right it’s a political problem. If open agenda REMAINers ever start treating it like one and understand the politics of asymmetric migration they might get somewhere.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jun '18 - 11:35pm

    Mark Wright in the course of a marvellous and typical of him intelligent and original argument, makes one very absurd point, he says he did not think he would read the view he considers so extreme and unfathomable “on LDV”

    This site which I contributed feeling to and effort, has for a while been the most off putting place for finger pointing and the sort of liberal left libertarian for some draconian unless you toe that line, typical of the American distortion of liberalism by that same liberal left.

    To read Sir Vince and Sir Nick accused of pandering to racism, two of the finest opponents of this loathsome aspect of inhumanity, shows why liberalism, Liberalism and the Liberal Democrats are considered by many even as the other ideologies and their parties are a laughing stock, to be very out of touch. We do have a chance, it is the sort of Liberalism espoused by amongst others…Mark Wright…

  • Peter Martin 21st Jun '18 - 8:18am

    @ Joe Otten,

    Nobody seriously believes that American workers would benefit from borders erected around each state, or UK workers from borders erected around each county; the EU is no different, it is just perceived differently;

    I notice your’re comparing the EU with the USA, which is a single country, and with the UK, which is a single country too. Does that mean you feel the EU is also a single country ? Or maybe it’s on the way to being one?

    Is this what the UK is being asked to be a part of?

  • @MarkWright (and Lorenzo)

    I think you’re obsessed. I am bemused by you’re incessant use of the word ‘racism’ when you are the only two on this thread that has made reference to the idea of ‘pandering to racism’. Stop straw manning and spreading the false idea that this article/or people on this thread – are accusing Nick of pandering to racism.

  • Neil Sandison 21st Jun '18 - 8:38am

    What we dont seem prepared to ask is why do so many people want to migrate ?
    Many skilled workers went to Germany when that country needed the labour during an economic upturn .That will continue to fill skill shortages . Others have moved country because of poverty and persecution ,others because their country has become unstable due to war or famine or natural disaster .Surely part of the liberal response is what can we do on the international scene to assist countries to remain stable with liberal democratic principle and values that their populations do not feel to flee their borders and add to their own economic prosperity .

  • Neil,

    Many posters solution is to pull up the draw bridge. The problem they then have is who does the work they need doing for them? The doctors, the dentists, the plumbers the wealth generators (even the fruit pickers) we have plundered off the world too make our society work, where are they too come from. Will we retrain the unemployed, force the retired back to work; well retraining would be good but that costs money (and we don’t like spending that) and increasing the retirement age is something the government is doing, but they’ll have to increase the speed and encourage the retired to put their shoulder to the wheel again. Of course you could always believe in faeries, who will bring us gold by the bucket load and do a little house work while they wait for us to count the coins; alas I fear that is a plan based nearer reality than those espoused by most of the “pull the drawbridge up” brigade.

  • Z,

    It isn’t racism, it’s far more simple than that it is “otherism”, there a quite a large number of people who don’t like people who are not like them, it can be because you have a different skin pigment than them, a different religion, a different accent, a different social class, hell even support a different football team than them. I live just outside Liverpool but a number of my relatives would deport Scousers is they got a chance because “they don’t belong here, they belong in Liverpool”. It can be summed up as the philosophy of “a local village, for local people”, an inward looking rather self obsessed philosophy but one that has deep roots in this country. If you look at this forum there are more than one or two who push forward that most plaintiff of pleas “get off moi land”.

  • Frankie’
    Mass immigration has not been going on for that long. Most of it only occurs after 2003 or so and it is a more matter of where temp agencies recruit from than anything else. Driving a forklift truck for supermarket chain is not actually a job that requires years of training. This idea that there was some sort of huge skill gap that could only be filled by importing unskilled or semi skilled labour is really only an after the fact justification put foreword by people who simply like the idea of society as a kind of open fluid hub and who relaxed immigration policies accordingly. It’s a mostly cultural argument being presented as a mainly economic one, because that stands more chance of succeeding with a resistant national population. As has been pointed out many times not many people are actually against skilled professionals entering the UK and need, as Mark Wright points out,doesn’t really explain what’s gone on in legal quarters.

  • Peter Martin 21st Jun '18 - 11:25am

    @ Joe Otten,

    ” ….open economies are richer and pay their workers better than closed economies do.”

    This is an argument that can make some sense to some economists. Although we perhaps should say that there aren’t many, if any at all, economies which can truly be described as “open”. The EU itself isn’t open in the way some economists would advocate it should be.

    The big problem you have is that it doesn’t make any sense at all to the average working person. They don’t believe that the PTB in the EU want them to have higher wages. If open borders, only within the EU of course, really did have that effect they’d be pretty quick to close them again! That’s the way they see it anyway.

    They tend to believe in price laws of supply and demand. A greater supply of workers will mean lower wages all round.

    They’ll need a lot of convincing, with some pretty good arguments, to see it any other way. I’m just wondering how you’ll go about that?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jun '18 - 1:07pm


    I do not deal with or relate to straw man as a concept or practice. He is a character brilliantly written by L Frank Baum in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and brilliantly portrayed in the movie by Ray Bolger, from my point of view.

    I am not obsessed with anything or anyone. Admit though to a real desire for peace and fulfilment and have always had a very big sincere love for Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

    I do see much criticism of Vince Cable for some while and Nick Clegg this time, for the very thing you say they do not allude to here, pandering to racism, and it bothers me. There are several here who more or less say it even as others on other media streams are explicit. This site is better than some but increases my sadness so rare is my involvement now.

  • Bless Glen,

    So immigration only started in 2003, well possibly in your small village but most people believe it started at lot longer ago than that.

    When the Second World War ended in 1945, it was quickly recognised that the reconstruction of the British economy required a large influx of immigrant labour. The Royal Commission on Population reported in 1949 that immigrants of ‘good stock’ would be welcomed ‘without reserve’, and potential newcomers from the Caribbean and elsewhere soon became aware of the pressing needs of the labour market in the UK.

    Postwar immigration also attracted, for the first time, large numbers of workers and their families from outside Europe – mainly from the Caribbean and from India and Pakistan, the two separate states created by ‘partition’ after Britain relinquished its Indian empire in 1947. During the 1950s, in particular, Britain’s non-white immigrant population increased rapidly in size.

    Still we can see from this extract that to fill skill gaps we needed to attract immigrants, a never ending story of our addiction to cheap labour both skilled, semi skilled and unskilled.

    So do we need forklift truck drivers it appears we do because we are not training the indigenous population to do it. Why because they want or they don’t get a chance (a bit of both I suspect). Now when the EU forklift truck driver goes home (and they are likely too) who will replace him an unemployed person perhaps but as the pool isn’t great they may struggle or an OAP returning to the workforce (perhaps it’s time for the Old Brexiteers to step forward and return to work).

  • Peter Watson 21st Jun '18 - 2:22pm

    @frankie “When the Second World War ended in 1945, it was quickly recognised that the reconstruction of the British economy required a large influx of immigrant labour.”
    You appear to be making a very good case for managed immigration, identifying where there is a need and responding to it with Brexiter-style “control of our borders”.
    Shurely shome mishtake? 😉

  • Frankie
    I said mass immigration, Not immigration. The idea that hundreds of thousands of migrants a year is normal only really dates back to the Blair years. I don’t live in a small village.
    Frankie when I was a student and doing temp jobs it took me less than week to learn to drive a forklift. It doesn’t require a great deal of training, Believe it or not this was in the dim distant past but in the mid 1990s. These are not high skill posts, they are mostly down to in job training. And before you say the world has changed since then, well it’s just changed again. In truth that kind liberal globalized vision based on the pseudo-scientific elevation of economics to the status of universal answer or as a kind of panacea ended about 10 years ago when its failings were exposed. The orthodoxy, sometimes called neo-liberalism, that looked triumphant from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession is being consigned to history. What I think should replace it is a less technocratic, more voter responsive civic version of politics.

  • Bless boys the immigration of the 1950s and 60’s led to the rise of the National Front. I don’t remember in the 1970s many people saying immigration was managable, in fact I remember quite the opposite. History repeats itself, when the economy booms we import people to do jobs, then we start to resent them, the economy weakens immigration falls and as a society we move onto something else to hate. Well congratulations Brexit will reduce immigration (no one wants to come to a poor country) and you will have to find something else to complain about. Lack of NHS resources, state of the roads, too many townies moving in, poor pension you get, the choices of what to grumble about will be legion and of cause none of this was your fault; tis never the fault of the eternal teenager’s is it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jun '18 - 6:28pm

    Neil Sandison – ‘What we don’t seem prepared to ask is why do so many people want to migrate?’

    I would suggest a better question would be the exact opposite. Why are so FEW UK people migrating. Yes, of course free movement is great for granny with a bubble priced house because it is a route to a sangria retirement. It’s great for those who work for multinational bank plc and it’s great for those with time and means.

    I maintain that if 2m young UK un/underemployed from post-industrial towns could realistically head to the A8 tomorrow then there wouldn’t be a problem here. If the coffee shops of Romania were full of young UK people paying off their student debts then everything would be fine. The issue here is neither racism nor procedures – it is reciprocity. Why are the flows of people so asymmetric. Indeed, this gives some food for thought on the wider questions here –

    It’s no good taking the Cameron-type argument – isn’t this all great, you don’t have to queue up at Magaluf airport. That failed and very rightly so. Free movement is supposed to present these wonderful opportunities – the question is why so many can’t see one. There has to be more to free movement than the opportunity to have your job zeroed and outsourced to Eastern Europe.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jun '18 - 6:29pm

    frankie – ‘the economy weakens immigration falls.’

    You do understand that we’ve just had a recession of historic proportions at the same time as historically high immigration levels don’t you?

  • Peter Watson 21st Jun '18 - 7:01pm

    @frankie “none of this was your fault; tis never the fault of the eternal teenager’s is it”
    I instinctively voted Remain despite a dismal campaign and would still prefer to stay in the EU. Remain campaigners have not changed their failed strategy and voters do not seem to have changed their minds. I can’t help but feel that Brexit is largely the fault of those leading enthusiasts for the EU (I don’t know if they’re eternal teenagers) who have not tried to take public opinion with them and even now, simply blame voters for seeing things the wrong way without thinking seriously about why so many people might have a different point of view.

  • Jackie,
    Actually we haven’t we have a period of slow growth but higher than that in the EU. People gravitate to where the work is and they did. Now since Brexit the UK economy has stuttered and has ceased to attract as many EU citizens, In fact we have been taking those that previously would have struggled to get a job.

    “Normally we have 10 people being interviewed by our agency for every job,” said Stephanie Maurel, the chief executive of Concordia which supplies around 10,000 foreign workers to 200 farms in the UK each year.

    “As of a month ago we are putting three or four job offers in front of each seasonal worker from Bulgaria and Romania. They are picking and choosing the ones they will come to. There has been a total switch around in 12 months. We’ve never had this before.”

    Now as the EU picks up and we stall, which way will the flow of people go. I’d guess it won’t on the whole be too the UK. That’s a problem for us because we fail to train enough skilled people and have a whole raft of jobs that need cheap labour. The question isn’t what should we do about freedom of movement that is yesterdays question, the question for today and tomorrow is who/or what will fill the gap? Do we invest in our people and productivity growth or do we seek to plunder the world for people and skills. My bet would be plunder the world and ignore the whinging of those that don’t agree, after all Boris the brave Brexiteers leader said on a recent visit to Chile

    “I have never made any secret in my time as mayor of London and since that I believe we should have a welcoming approach in the UK for people of talent who want to come and enrich our society.

    “I do think however that it is a matter for Government to control and we should have a policy that suits the needs of the UK economy.

    “But certainly we want to remain open to talented people from Chile such as the Chilean community we have in London in the financial services industry.”

    Not what a large number of leave voters voted for I fear, but then as I keep saying “You don’t get the Brexit you want, you get the Brexit you are give”.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jun '18 - 7:54pm

    Frankie – Sorry, but did you just deny that the Great Recession happened?

  • Frankie,
    I don’t hate anyone. The reality is that wanting to lower immigration is the majority mainstream middle of the road view. It’s not an argument between the far-right and liberals. It’s an argument between radicals and the majority view. It has not only become an issue since the failure neo-liberalism either. This is why New Labour was constantly back-tracking and trying “address people’s concerns” even when the economy appeared to be doing ok.
    My view is that things should be tipped towards a majority consensus because it’s politically more stable. I don’t really believe in politics as a tool for guiding the public . I think that kind of thing is a bit presumptuous and oversteps the job description.

  • Jackie,

    No Jackie, I am quite aware of the slow grind down that is transforming the Western world , but you are missing the point. The jobs available in the UK, might not look worth having to you, but to an unemployed Eastern Europe they looked mighty appealing and like it or not during the last ten years our economy churned out a multitude of them. Now we became addicted to cheap labour. the cheap car wash, the cheap labourer in the fields, the Amazon delivery man, the Polish tradesman, the European doctor/vet. We want them gone you cry, well yes but who will fill their role, our unemployed you cry but there ain’t enough of them and to be blunt some ain’t fit for work no matter what Atos say. So when we have driven off the EU migrants, who replaces them, go on do tell, who? We are faced with a dichotomy we hate immigrants but my how we rely on them. Already you see Boris charming the world he isn’t giving up on a supply of cheap labour no matter what you desire.
    The main problem with this country isn’t immigration easy as it is to blame them or the EU it is our unwillingness to pay for education, infrastructure and services. We want everything cheap but don’t like what we get. When we look in the mirror the problem isn’t an immigrant staring back at you, it’s you (and me and anyone else who is happy for things to remain the same, all be it with a few less foreigners).

  • Peter Watson 21st Jun '18 - 9:24pm

    You seem to have a depressingly pessimistic view of the UK and the British people. If that is typical of Remainers and Lib Dems then it is little wonder that the referendum was lost and the party continues to struggle in the polls.
    Personally, I prefer to think that we’re a great country with great people, and we could do even better in the EU than outside it.

  • I wouldn’t claim to be typical of anyone but myself. Are we a great people we can be, but only if we change our mindset. To often we go for the cheapest option, the disdain of experts and education. We need to champion our best and brightest, providing them with the tools and training they require rather than looking for a cheaper option somewhere else. I’ll use football as an example do we invest in our youth or look to pick someone else up from a foreign league? Well that in microcosm is our problem, we always go by default for the foreign cheaper option, in the longer term it costs the country more but football like our society seems focused on the today, not even the tomorrow. Time will tell and perhaps Brexit will make us face a reality that embraces the long term but at the moment as a society we are not.

  • By the way not one of our brave Brexiters has attempted to answer my question
    “Who will replace the EU migrants presently working in the UK?”
    and no faries and unicorns is not an answer.

  • Hate to correct you Martin but I think the Max Fac work force is comprised mostly of faeries and unicorns with the odd leprechaun threw in for the northern Irish border. It makes sense if you think about it, the faeries can carry out aerial observation, unicorns are not tied down to only patrolling the roads, they can go cross country as well and leprechauns know the Irish country side like the back of their hands. Of cause we also have the SMS (Secret Mermaid Service) to carry out undercover operations under the sea (but we haven’t told the dammed EU about them, that will come as a nasty shock too them i can tell you). Of cause there may be another plan I’m sure someone will pop up with one, come on one of you, one of you must have a plan or this becomes the fallback plan.

  • Frankie’
    Most of them will be replaced by people signing up to agencies recruiting locally instead of in EU and so on. There’s loads of people on zero hour contracts who could do with more cash and more hours. They are not highly skilled jobs for the most part . Some of them will disappear through increased automation, anyway. It certainly doesn’t require some sort of centralised glorious five year plan and enforced labour. There is nothing that drastic to address. Really some people seem to think the country was a hell of rotting vegetables and rusting warehouses before Blair’s great leap forward launched Brand Cool Britannia and the scramble to produce Tony-lite leaders ensued. In reality there was a few years of excitement followed by a decade of virtual stagnation, ending in the rejection of the Third Way. But apparently things that were happening before Brexit were caused by Brexit and the cure is more of the same or something.

  • Glen,

    To give you your due you tried but really, I suggest you read the following found after a quick google.

    The number of EU migrants applying to work in rural Suffolk has dropped by 22% since the Brexit referendum – prompting concern from the biggest farmers’ union in East Anglia.

    “Analysing by age bands is one of the few ways to predict possible future trends, assuming that a person who is already established in a career is less likely to change their country of residence compared to someone at the beginning of their career,” Marini writes.

    “The percentage of academic staff aged 34 and under in the first academic year since the referendum decreased (from 26.99% to 26.61%), indicating a possible reduction of non-UK EU nationals in the future.

    EU nationals make up some 4 per cent of the charity workforce and are more highly qualified, and younger, than their UK equivalents. This is especially true in membership organisation charities and those working in areas such as social work, residential care and education. Charities also seem ill-equipped to face this challenge, with most of them thinking that it would be difficult to replace these staff, with little experience of recruiting outside the EU and lacking funds to provide additional training to fill the skills gap.

    The number of European Union (EU) workers coming to East Anglia to take up jobs has fallen since Brexit, official figures suggest, prompting fears of looming gaps in the regional workforce.

    and you think zero hours will fill the gap, there are not enough of them and unless we start on a massive training plan ( a good idea by the way) they lack the skills. We rely on young cheap migrants, to recalibrate the British economy to run without them will be painful. Now the pain might be worth it but I suspect that wasn’t what you voted for.

  • Panic over Glen looks like we may have thousands of highly skilled staff to fill the gap

    Tom Williams, the chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said: “In any scenario, Brexit has severe negative consequences for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular.”

    “Immediate mitigation measures would need to be accelerated,” he added. “While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively.

    “Without these, Airbus believes that the impacts on our UK operations could be significant. We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success. Far from ‘Project Fear’, this is a dawning reality for Airbus. Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’s future in the UK.”

    Looks like Project Fear is becoming Project Fact who’d have thought it, certainly not the brave “not much will change” Brexiteers.

  • Frankie
    Worry is not fact. Worry is more panic. In most cases I still think the slack would be taken up pretty quickly. Plus If young British people are so unskilled and poorly educated, why do we have a very expensive higher education system that is now virtually compulsory for anyone under the age of 25 “who is not in training or full time work”?

    The Air Bus decision, which is I admit is not good, has little to do with attracting skilled workers. It’s actually caused by fears of supply line disruption and increased cost if the current government goes for Hard Brexit. Also I note they are talking about moving production to America (Trump country). This is not really a ringing endorsement of the EU either. I also suspect this might happen anyway because of the US’s imposition of high aluminium and steel tariffs. America is very geared to aircraft production, it’s internal mark is huge and there was recently a drive by American aircraft companies (Boeing) to make things difficult for foreign competitors. This could easily could flare up again and moving production to the US would get rid of the need for long legal.
    There is two Ns in G-L-E-N-N

    But we’ll see what actually happens next year.

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