This Writer is working hard to understand what’s going on with Brexit – and it’s uphill work because most of the information coming from the government descended into nonsense gibberish many months ago.
One aspect that seems clear is that the minority Conservative government wants to end the free movement of EU citizens into and out of the United Kingdom, claiming that this will bring immigration levels down to a reasonable level.
I have never understood this claim. The UK has always had access to controls on EU immigration – and the numbers would be far less horrific if the Tories did the decent thing and removed foreign students, who are only in the UK temporarily, from the figures.
Overseas students are a benefit to the UK economy and restrictions on free movement that would prevent them from coming here would harm it. And with the balance of payments deficit standing at more than four times the UK’s annual gross domestic product, it would be madness to make it worse.
In other words, we already have all the controls we need, if we want to curb immigration. The simple fact is that the Conservatives never used them.
Now I see this, in the Independent:
A majority of the British public support the free movement of citizens to live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU, according to a new survey mapping public opinion across Europe.
It comes after a spokesman for Theresa May confirmed earlier this week that free movement would end when Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019 – the deadline set for the conclusion of Brexit talks.
But the barometer of public opinion – commissioned by the EU Commission – appears to contradict the commonly held view that British people are not in favour of free movement.
[The EU Commission’s ‘Spring 2017 – Standard Eurobarometer’ data] also claimed that despite the UK voting to leave the bloc at the referendum last year, an increasing majority – 56 per cent – of people in the EU were optimistic about its future. The most significant increase in optimism came from French respondents with 55 per cent now optimistic about the bloc’s future – an 11 per cent increase on the same survey in the autumn of 2016.
But among British respondents, optimism was much lower on 39 per cent while just 20 per cent believed the British economy would improve in the coming year.
So, on top of the facts that EU immigration can be controlled and that the figures are inflated by wrongly including students, a majority of UK citizens don’t want free movement to end.
Perhaps another reason they may have been persuaded is the fact that public services like the NHS get good staff from the EU. Remember that hospital in Scotland, where a man with chest pains was sent home with Gaviscon and died later that same day? It is in a remote area and, it seems, relies on foreign staff because they’re the only ones willing to work there; UK citizens see it as a hindrance to their prospects.
So, when you put it all together, there are strong arguments for maintaining freedom of movement with EU countries.
The added bonus is that retaining freedom of movement could mean retaining access to the EU Single Market, and the cheaper trading it represents.
So why are our politicians hell-bent on stopping it?
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