LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt, still taking it to UKIP…

Guy VerhofstadtIn November, we reported on Guy Verhofstadt’s attack on Nigel Farage in the European Parliament. In yesterday’s Independent, the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals & Democrats in the European Parliament, gave his views on European migration policy and its effect on the United Kingdom. In a piece notable for its calmness of tone, he points out some of the flipside of the debate, pointing out the benefits of freedom of movement within the European Union, and nailing some of the misleading claims of UKIP leaders and activists.

Given the tendency of Nigel Farage and friends to blame virtually everything on Europe, Mr Verhofstadt notes;

Britain is the fifth largest source of migrants within the EU, with roughly 1.4 million British citizens choosing to live, work and study across the Single Market. If we include those who choose to live abroad for part of the year, the total number of Brits living in the EU rises to around 2.2 million. In addition, increasing numbers of British students are choosing to undertake their studies in European universities, including a record 13,368 who took part in the Erasmus programme last year.

And whilst the comments are notable for some astonishingly ill-informed comments from the anti-Europe fraternity, it is interesting to note that the piece has provoked some very strong emotions with (at the time of writing) 118 strongly agreeing with Mr Verhofstadt, 80 strongly disagreeing with him, and only 8 claiming to be somewhere in between.

If you do have UKIP opposition in your election next month, you might enjoy using some of the points he makes in his article…

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13 Comments

  • Yorkshire Guidon 6th Apr '13 - 9:36am

    Of course hundreds of thousands of Brits live abroad mostly in retirement, but how many actually WORK in the rest of the EU? I’d be interested to know how that compares with other EU countries. And of course we could still own property abroad without the single market – Florida and Turkey come to mind.

  • I think Guy Verhofstadt’s argument is completely undermined by his failure to mention that different kinds of immigration take place within the EU. British workers have rarely gone to other EU countries to find lower skilled, lower paid employment in the same way that those from other EU countries have done in the UK. And of course, as Yorkshire Guidon points out, a large proportion of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU are pensioners rather than workers. As such, they bring money but do not compete in the labour market.

    In last month’s unemployment figures, the only reason why unemployment rose despite a massive increase in the number of jobs, was because of a rise in the size of the workforce. Very large numbers of workers from southern Europe are undoubtedly present in the UK (certainly in London at least) because of rising unemployment in the Eurozone. While on balance I remain in favour of the EU in principle, the problem of rising unemployment in the Eurozone is going to have increasingly large ramifications for the UK labour market and to pretend otherwise by making ill founded arguments like Verhofstadt’s is not going to help the cause of continued EU membership in the UK.

  • @RC – Show the statistics which show that prove this because the last stats I saw were showing that less EU workers are coming here and more are leaving than before making your argument invalid.

  • Paul McKeown 6th Apr '13 - 1:06pm

    @RC

    “British workers have rarely gone to other EU countries to find lower skilled, lower paid employment”

    Funnily enough, I was watching an old episode of “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet”, the other night…

  • @ Liberal Al

    Less than what? If you could supply your own statistics, that would help. Anyway, most of the southern European workers won’t show up in any statistics because they don’t need to register.

    @ Mark Valladares

    “Verhofstadt will have been limited to a fixed number of words or space, so he will write in such a way as to grab the attention of the reader.”

    …by presenting a superficial account of what the figures show. What he may have gained in brevity, he has lost in terms of accuracy as to what the figures he cites actually mean.

    @ Paul McKeown

    “Funnily enough, I was watching an old episode of “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet”, the other night…”

    So an example from back in the 1980s is supposed to be indicative of the situation now? I think not. The whole point about Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was what a rare set of circumstances it portrayed, with British as guest workers.

  • Many thanks also to Mark Valladares for pointing out why in the UK’s case, the current jobs market situation vis a vis the rest of Europe is virtually a one way street. For many young people from southern Europe, for whom English is already a first language or for whom learning English is a major appeal, the UK is number one destination for those wanting to find work. The online Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano regularly runs articles by young Italians who have moved to London in large numbers to find work because their own economy is on its knees and youth unemployment is rocketing. I know this is true because in my area of London I regularly hear young people speaking Italian on the street, in the supermarket, at the gym, everywhere.

    To pretend that young people from the UK are moving abroad in similar numbers to find work in the rest of Europe is frankly ridiculous.

  • Paul McKeown 6th Apr '13 - 5:26pm

    @RC

    “a rare set of circumstances”

    Really? How do you know? You give us the benefit of your wisdom, without the benefit of your statistics.

    If you are right, it says more, though, about British educational achievements than anything else, for it would indicate that “lower skilled” workers from other EU countries attain a working knowledge of the English language, whilst their British equivalents fail to attain a similar fluency in German.

  • RC: “For many young people from southern Europe, for whom English is already a first language” First language? Even in Malta it is most likely to be a second language (unless it is Italian).

    Paul McKeown: I very much agree with you about languages and believe that the paucity of UK language competence fuels the isolation of the UK and the progress of UKIP.

  • @Paul McKeown: Many, myself included, have been lobbying for years for the English education system to actually take Modern Languages seriously; although, to its credit, the Government has listened, the resources it is going to require to effectively implement modern languages into our schools is really undermining the process, if for no other reason than the fact that we lack the teachers to do it.

  • Yorkshire Guidon
    I just saw an advertisement on TV about real estate for sale in the USA. Anyone can buy it but how many would be able to get a visa to live there? Very few.
    RC
    My nephew has gone to work in Prague-teaching English. I am sure there are many other young Britons doing likewise in other parts of the EU. I have heard of other young people who do other kinds of jobs in EU countries so I think the number of working Britons is higher than what many people think.

    The picture of the UKIP billboard in the article showing Churchill is an example of misrepresentation. Churchill in a 1946 speech at the University of Zurich called for a United States of Europe.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 8th Apr '13 - 10:29am

    @Manfareng 400,000 Brits have property in Florida which is marginally more than have property in Spain (see links below). It is possible to get a B2 visa for the USA which allows stays up to 6 months which is frankly enough for Florida (perfect for winter – way too hot in summer!)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/08/florida-property-slump-british-expats
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jan/26/europe-population-who-lives-where

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