Tag Archives: free movement

Free movement: UK arrivals and departures

In an increasingly interdependent world UK public policy should acknowledge international mobility and diversity as a permanent social trend

Many people who’ve lived in Britain all their lives dream of winning the National Lottery and being able to move away to some sun-kissed paradise overseas.  Brits routinely holiday abroad and migration, whether short-term or long-term, is common.  

Most of us, however, continue to live in a country where we can enjoy beautiful countryside and coastline, historic buildings, a varied arts and culture scene, and a tradition of volunteering and community support groups. The population of the UK is generally tolerant and easy-going, happy to share these good things with people from other countries. That said, the media keeps telling us that since Brexit there has been growing xenophobia and resentment towards foreign nationals in Britain.

Yet in spite of social and political reserve in some quarters towards foreigners, many people do want to come and live here.  The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (MSQR) of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) notes that in the year ending June 2017 immigration to the UK was 572,000 (down 80,000 since June 2016) and emigration was 342,000 (up 26,000). To quote the report: “overall, more people are still coming to live in the UK than are leaving and therefore net migration is adding to the UK population.”  

So, what really attracts them to the UK?

In their recent study, Buying into Myths: Free Movement of People and Immigration 2016, Eiko Thielemann and Daniel Schade have suggested that migration flows between EU countries including Britain have been largely the result of high levels of unemployment in southern Europe and poor labour market conditions in Eastern European countries. Unemployment rates in the UK have been low compared to such countries. And when you don’t have work, one obvious option is to move somewhere else to look for a job.

Vasileva first came to Britain from her native Bulgaria in June 2008 She’s now  forty-something-years-old, is raising a family, and has lived in York for almost ten years. She has a permanent job as an office manager with an international training company. Vasileva says she enjoys the cosmopolitan feel of this country, the chance to share meals and conversation with people from all over the world. She loves the sense of community and support, and “people realising the value of these things.”

Something that native monolingual Brits find incredibly hard to understand is that many people come to study, live and work here simply because they know that the best way to learn a language is to come to the country where it is spoken. There is a global hunger for learning English, and with this there is often a natural curiosity to learn about the culture that lies behind the language. Take Céline, for instance. She’s a 32-year-old French teacher who has also lived in the north of England for just under ten years. “I love speaking English every day, and sharing my passion for languages with my students and the children in school.” She loves the kindness she has experienced here as well as the British sense of humour. 

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Trying (too hard) to curb EU free movement: A symptom of the EU-wide social democracy meltdown

Just as I was reading Nick Tyrone’s blog about Corbyn betraying the EU freedom of movement but wanting to have the EU cake nonetheless, another recently-elected Labour leader came on Dutch public radio. Note the date: Tuesday, January 10th, 2017.

I’m talking about former Amsterdam alderman and present Dutch minister of Social Affairs, the ambitious lawyer Lodewijk Asscher of the “Partij van de Arbeid”/PvdA, literally: “Labour Party”.

In the 1980s, when Labour under Michael Foot was going through its “Militant Tendency” phase, the then PvdA leaders, ex-prime minister (1973-’77) Den Uyl and coming prime minister (1994-2002) Wim Kok deplored that leftist populism and leftist political correctness gone wild. So both criticised it: British Labour, come to your senses.

Not today.

In the Dutch campaign that just got started for the General Election on 15th March, Mr. Asscher, who just two weeks ago won a party leadership contest, just said that he counted on “European Leftist support” (PvdA jargon: from fellow Labour and social democratic parties) to pursue his top-profile policy: curbing free movement of labour through the EU. When the radio presenter quoted a phrase Gordon Brown grew to regret: “Jobs for our labourers first”, Mr. Asscher readily agreed. And who does he expect to get support from?

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Why Vince Cable is wrong to call for an end to free movement

Vince Cable is fundamentally wrong to suggest that there is no great argument of liberal principle for free movement and his case for ending free movement is weak. He ought to revise his views to be in more in keeping with liberal values which, in the face of rising and fierce anti-migrant rhetoric, are sorely needed.

His assertion that ‘British opposition to immigration is mainly colour-blind’ is simply not true.

Fears and prejudices were purposefully stoked during the referendum with explicit scapegoating, disingenuous scaremongering about Turkish migrants and in particular Farage’s appalling blatantly non-colour-blind Breaking Point’ poster campaign.

Hate crime has soared since the referendum.  The vast majority of the targets of xenophobic incidents and abuse have been EU migrants in particular citizens from Eastern European countries.

Islamophobia and associated crimes have also risen exponentially. Note the 25 serious incidents of anti-muslim hate crimes recorded in the three days after the Brexit vote. People are explicitly abusing muslims in the streets ‘because we voted out’, shouting ‘shouldn’t you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out!’

The EU referendum vote has unleashed an ugly force of racism where those who hold prejudiced views feel emboldened to shout, abuse and attack people in the street, post excrement through people’s letter boxes and rip off people’s hijabs in public. 

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Vince Cable calls for end to EU free movement

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

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

In the New Statesman he writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Oct - 12:05am
    John Marriott - It looks as if Juncker was somewhat exceeding his authority. I suspect the EU would rule out an extension for more deal-tweaking....
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    Slightly odd comments in response to this article. The simple point being made is that it is odd, to say the least, for a party...
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