The EU Referendum: Immigration

Brexit seems to be confusing EU and Non-EU immigration and treating them as the same. They aren’t.  The biggest deceit here is the idea that being in the EU stops us from reducing immigration from non-EU states coming to the UK. That is wrong. Being a member of the EU does not have any impact on our ability to restrict immigration from non-EU countries and leaving the EU will not enhance our ability to restrict immigration into the UK from non-EU countries.

 

Importantly immigration from outside the EU is greater than that from inside the EU. In 2015 190,000 immigrants came to the UK from outside the EU. Leaving the EU would have no impact on our ability to restrict those immigrants.

 

In 2015 the UK did receive 185,000 immigrants from other EU member states. If we left the EU we could, in theory, restricts access to the UK for those people. Although, it is important to remember that 1.2 million British people live in other EU member states, mainly Spain, France and Ireland. If the UK were to restrict access to EU nationals coming it seems reasonable that the EU would restrict the access of UK citizens looking to live and work in other EU member states.

 

Further, if we wanted to maintain our access to the single market, which most Brexit supporters want to do, then we will almost certainly have to keep the free movement of people condition as part of a post Brexit agreement. Norway and Switzerland are often held up as examples of the sort of relationship the UK could have with EU if we left. Norway and Switzerland both have free movement as part of their agreements with the EU. And both Norway and Switzerland have proportionally higher levels of EU immigration than the UK does.

 

Leaving the EU will have little impact on immigration. For non-EU immigration it makes no difference if we are in or out. And if we stay part of the single market we most likely won’t be able to restrict EU immigration either. The idea put out there by Boris and Gove that we could suddenly reduce immigration by leaving the EU is totally misleading.

 

Another deceit of the Brexit campaign is that immigrants are a strain and a drain on the UKs economy and public services. Again not true. Immigrants are a benefit to the UK not a cost. Immigrants from the EU contribute £1.36 in revenue for every £1 they cost. For immigrants from Eastern EU countries that figure improves still further to £1.64 in tax for every £1 in costs.

 

Nor do EU immigrants put a strain on public services, quite the opposite they help pay for them. Indeed, if we were to leave the EU we would severely damage the British economy. The decision to leave and the resulting economic decline will put far greater pressure on public service provision than immigrants do.

 

To link EU immigration and the pressure on public services is misleading. The strain on public services is largely down to budget cuts, not immigrants.

 

More important than all of this is the type of UK we want to live in. The free movement of people within the EU represents something great about the EU, for me it represents freedom; it represents choice; it represents tolerance and mutual respect; it represents opportunity and trust. Those are great things. Things we shouldn’t turn our back on. Things that I want my children to enjoy.

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