Post-Brexit questions on immigration and emigration


Migrations, big and small, have causes, so let’s start by looking at them.

War or military conflict, with and without “boots on the ground” is an all too frequent cause. The huddled masses trying to escape from the war torn and terrorised Middle East provide a pressing example.

“Real Estate” or land-grab forced migration is another category, of which the evictions of Native Americans by US governments provide examples. Not all examples are historic.

Politically purposed, forced migration was used in the Scottish Highland Clearances of the 1740s. The UK government forced Scots to emigrate to weaken and punish actual and potential Jacobite rebels. It is possible that the refugee precipitating conditions created in Iraq, Libya and Syria etc. may be similar. To wreck one country may be regarded as a misfortune: to wreck at least three looks like policy.

Religious and ethnic intolerance can be a people mover and divider, as the partition of India into India and Pakistan indicates. Managed bigotry is a powerful political tool.

The consequences of Global Warming are causing increasing numbers to move.

With sufficient perception, will and power all of these human-made migration-causing activities could, at least, be reduced. Prevention is better than cure.

There are economic causes of migration too. These could be reduced or removed. Current trade practice appears self-contradictory and harmful for the many through the restrictive practices of Intellectual Property Protection, the total freedom of movement of money irrespective of the value of the goods and services delivered and the supremacy of normative assessment over criterion referencing.

Underdeveloped countries stay that way because they are prevented from developing high value industries by Intellectual Property Protection and are only used for natural resources and cheap labour. Fast free movement of money results in finance being detached from real life, rewarding the financial manipulator and not those who deal in primary, not derivative, services and goods. (Some “shares” are held for micro seconds.)

Normative comparison results in “nil-sum” attitudes which see gain in terms of another’s loss and not symbiotic improvement. If we referenced to economic criteria which gave the many a reasonably comfortable life in their own country, then the economic driver to move would be no problem. South Korea is an example of change from poor to well off. Similarly there would be a reduction of the “harvesting” of the most able of poorer counties to maintain the advantage of the richer and more powerful. (If your population lacks skills, improve your education systems. If many see themselves as underpaid, check your living costs, income differentials and economic policies.)

“Wholesale” or mass migrations are unhealthy and the causes need to be addressed. “Retail” or small scale migrations are healthy for the people and help to keep governments more efficient through citizen choice of country. It spreads knowledge, skills, tolerance, independence and initiative.

Complaining and sometimes being brutal about immigration whilst striving overtly and covertly to have massive and increasing differences of the wealth for some countries and individuals to the harsh cost of others is hypocritical and long-term inefficient. Great disparities in wealth, country and individual, result in rule by the rich for the rich and worsening conditions for the not-rich, which is much the most of us.

What we think, say and do on immigration and emigration as individual persons, Liberal Democrat members, as a political party and as a significant voice speaking to and for Great Britain, has existential consequences for our Party and all too many desperate migrants and refugees. Here are some suggestions. More are most welcome and necessary!

Our Party needs a prompt, differentiated and robust policy on migration which deals with cause, consequence and accuracy of information. We also need to carefully construct related policies including Foreign and Trade.

We need to volubly endorse the findings of Chilcot and strive for constitutional reforms so that wars and military involvements cannot be undertaken in underhand ways or by small insider groups and not for reasons of commercial profit or ego. Threats and force interventions, such as in Iraq, comprise the opposite of Free Trade.

We need legislation requiring the creation of reviews of military engagements within a fixed, limited time. The length of time for Chilcot to be delivered has put our troops in avoidable danger.

The shoddy equipment, vulnerability and consequent underperformance of our army in Afghanistan and Iraq shows the need for a thorough review of our military and the Ministry of Defence. We have more generals than tanks which work!

Our Trade policy needs differentiation which recognises that not all economies are at a stage of development that can be realistically considered free. Poverty afflicted and strife savaged countries are unable to trade freely.

As individuals we can work, and it will not be easy, to reduce the acceptability of the abuse of non-native born fellow human beings, by individuals, groups, the media and political parties. [11]

Might we be the clear-eyed, clear-speaking Party which keeps its Country safe in a more equitable, and therefore, safer world?

P.S. Thank you, Charles Kennedy!


* Steve Trevathan is chairperson of Lyme Regis and Marshwood Vale Liberal Democrats.

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  • nigel hunter 12th Jul '16 - 10:41am

    The military were not given the equipment needed to do the job in Afghanistan etc.. Likewise ‘we are awaiting planes for the aircraft carriers and the frigates being built in Scotland are on a ‘go slow’ production line. Austerity does not work’ jobs are needed to build the equipment and to staff them.

  • Sue Sutherland 12th Jul '16 - 5:58pm

    Agreed Steve and Mark

  • A Social Liberal 12th Jul '16 - 11:23pm

    I always thought that those fleeing war were refugees, not immigrants. It is not helpful to conflate the two

  • The question is immigration, or concerns about foreigners coming to Britain, not emigration. British people expect to travel, live and work wherever they want in the world. They do not expect these rights to be enjoyed by foreigners coming to Britain.(EU free movement).
    A good start by the Liberal Democrats would be to campaign to remove the restrictions on foreign spouses of British citizens who want to come to the UK.

  • Steve Trevethan – “Underdeveloped countries stay that way because they are prevented from developing high value industries by Intellectual Property Protection and are only used for natural resources and cheap labour.”

    I think that IP protection may be an issue in a small way, but I suggest that the main drivers for underdeveloped countries staying that way are war, corruption and economic mismanagement. War is obviously devastating in many ways, but ordinary people in many resource-rich countries fail to benefit because of high-level corruption that creams off the profits for a select few into offshore bank accounts, rather than generating tax revenue for the Government to invest in education, infrastructure and diversification.

  • @Mark Wright – “As liberals we need to be much more aware that allowing/encouraging the most able in poor countries to come here can have a devastating effect on the future of those poor countries – it helps keep them poor and us rich. That’s not a liberal solution.”

    There clearly is a problem here, but the liberal in me still baulks at saying in effect that we would deny an ambitious individual from a third-world country the choice of coming here because by accident of birth they were born somewhere poor. Is it liberal to say that people from rich countries should be able to move around the world easily almost at will, but those from poorer countries have to stay put for the common good?

    Yet it’s clearly unfair for rich countries to take the best from poorer countries and give nothing back. An individual’s talent developed in another country is something of value, so maybe rich countries should be required to pay for it?

  • Simon Banks 13th Jul '16 - 1:59pm

    Good points. But the main Highland Clearances were in the 19th century and carried out by Scottish landowners under pressure from British banks. It is to such clearances that the depopulation of some islands and most of Sutherland can be attributed. Following the defeat of the ’45 Jacobite Rebellion, some people were forced to flee (mostly active Jacobites) and others were slaughtered on the spot, My Lai style. The British government clamped down hard on Highland culture – the plaid, tartans, the Gaelic language, the clan system. But the population of the Highlands actually rose in the late 18th century. The cessation of clan warfare helped, and the roads improved for military purposes but carrying mainly civilian commerce. Much of Scottish emigration in the 18th century was from the Lowlands and neither these Lowlanders nor the Protestant Northern Irish, who both arrived in America in some numbers and were mainstays of the American Revolution, were forced out.

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Jul '16 - 4:50pm

    Thank you for your contributions! Refugees are a sub-set of migrants. People who change their home country are all migrants. All are emigrants because they leave a home country and all are immigrants because they arrive in another. “Refugee”, “economic migrant” etc. are labels which might give an indication of the reasons behind the change. Such labels are not always accurate, sometimes deliberately so.
    The people of poor corrupt countries would be helped by rich countries with control over Intellectual Property Protection offering a trade of relaxed IPP in return for decent pay, conditions etc. for the many. This would encourage initiatives, the work ethic and might get us into a race to the top! (Most interesting on the Clearances and the role of the banks!)

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '16 - 5:39pm

    Steve Trevethan: This does not include Internally Displaced Persons who would be refugees if they had crossed an international border, some of which are unmarked in the Sahara, etc. Suppose a country with a surplus of skilled and unskilled labour decided it has no need of any immigration. It should still meet its international obligations under the 1951 refugee convention.

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