Monday, 20 June 2016

#EUref - Immigration - Aren't the Leave Camp selling us The Emperor's New Clothes?

Here we are 3 days away from the EU Referendum on Thursday.  Yet there is a key question which in my view is still being entirely mis-sold - Immigration Control.  For many people intending to vote Leave, this topic is their main reason (though others put sovereignty first).  But the views on Immigration Control need to be challenged.  Like the "Emperor's New Clothes", the rhetoric has been almost universally accepted. But now the country needs to urgently wake up to pragmatic reality.

I wrote a piece on the Immigration Question here where my contentions are in summary:
  1.  It is acknowledged that excessive levels of net migration (immigration over emigration) would be a major problem. This is because of strain on schools, housing and other national infrastructure, and downward pressure on wages especially of low-skilled workers.
  2. The UK already has control of its borders in respect of non-EU nationals. To extend this to EU-nationals means a relaxation to Free Movement of People (FMOP) rules.  The chances of this happening are low in both the short-term and long-term. To maximise chances, the way to transition out of the EU would bear an economic cost that would be unacceptable. Then still no guarantee of success on relaxing FMOP.
  3. There would be major logistical problems for the Eire border, and with Scotland if it becomes independent
  4. Leaving the EU would likely make immigration control of non-EU nationals more difficult
  5. Any control of EU nationals would likely be reciprocated. Do us Brits we really want to lose our freedom to live and work anywhere in the EU? 
  6. The most practical immigration control measure would be an "Emergency Brake" on excessive immigration. That's available as a EFTA/EEA member like Norway, which is outside the EU but still a member of the Single Market.  Let's aim to secure an "Emergency Brake" as an EU member.
  7. We mustn't forget the benefits immigration brings to the UK economically, culturally and the workforce.  Provided undesirable cultural traits are tackled such as extremism and social attitudes long out-dated in British society. 
Indeed, which has the higher odds:
  • Achieving an Emergency Brake on immigration if remain in the EU, which is as much as we need, given precedent already set in EFTA/.EEA for the likes of Norway
  • Any relaxation of FMOP in any new trade deal with the EU if leave?
I suggest #Remain and go for the Emergency Brake.

These conclusions are because:
  • It would be economic madness to leave the Single Market, probably triggering a DIY recession in the initial uncertainty.  (Note that that Michael Gove and VoteLeave are seriously suggesting leaving the Single Market - but that's an extra issue!)
  • If the UK leaves the EU, the main way to keep part of the Single Market after the 2-year transition is via the EFTA/EEA (often called the "Norway Option").  To date full access to the Single Market has only been granted with acceptance of Free Movement of People (FMOP) i.e. no change to immigration control for EU nationals.  FMOP is a fundamental principle of the Single Market, which I do not see being flexed.  Any sensible UK Government would take that path. Even with Gove and Boris Johnson in charge, surely they would baulk at causing a recession?
  • The alternative is a Free Trade deal with the EU/EEA outside of the Single Market. much like Canada, Australia or other countries outside of the European continent.  There are several problems with this idea:
    • The UK is geographically much closer to continental Europe, which makes FMOP far more practical than in an arrangement with the non-European countries. 
    • Indeed it's difficult to see FMOP being flexed in any sort of free trade agreement.  Partly because the EU countries may well say EFTA/EEA or nothing. The UK has negotiating clout, but not enough to overcome that.
    • In any case a free trade deal would take many years to achieve. Some agreement has to be put in place within 2 years to maintain free trade. That takes us back to the EFTA/EEA option.
    • Thereafter what incentive would the EU have to put a different free trade agreement in place, with all the work that entails?  This two stage EEA-freetrade approach (a version of which is "Flexcit") looks a non-starter.
    • Therefore there is absolutely no certainty any flex to FMOP would be achievable, in the short-term, medium-term or even in the long term. Indeed I'd put the chances as low to zero.
  • But let's assume some additional control of UK borders in respect of EU nationals can be put in place. The UK already has control of its borders in respect of non-EU nationals. A main proposal is that this would be extended to EU-nationals, i.e. all non-UK-nationals wishing to live or work in the UK would be subject to an Australian-style points system. It would be unreasonable to assume the EU wouldn't apply the same to UK nationals wishing to live or work in the EU. Do we really want to lose those freedom?
  • Leaving the EU could make the control of non-EU nationals more difficult. Unless something was put in place to continue the current arrangement within the EU, under international law these people would have to be let into the UK whilst their application was processed, at UK expense.  Currently they are dealt with in their first country of entry to the EU.
  • Border controls of Northern Ireland with Eire would likely have to be put in place. Practical nightmare, and overturning key planks of the Peace Process  A similar practical problem would arise with the England/Scotland border if the Scots decided to leave UK and apply to join EU.
  • There has always been immigration. It is only excessive net immigration that can be a problem for schools, homes and other national infrastructure.  The most practical immigration control measure would be an "Emergency Brake" on excessive immigration. This is available in EFTA/EEA, and could reasonably be secured whilst remaining in the EU if the alternative offered to the EU was Brexit.  No guarantee but surely worth another try rather than to immediately press the Brexit button.
  • Indeed immigration can bring major economic, cultural and workforce benefits, provided undesirable cultural traits are tackled.  It is by no means all bad!


My son bought me these socks for Fathers Day.  Does my analysis above make me the "Stupid Boy" for overlooking something important, or misinterpreting the facts and possibilities?

Or is it the UK media who have been led on to accept what UKIP and others have been saying?


Looking at the front-page headlines:
  • The Daily Express suspended its relentless coverage of immigration as its main headline to talk about extra VAT that the EU may impose (which is the issue of sovereignty)
  • The Daily Star managed to keep the EU Referendum off its front page.  It's what its readers want.
  • So did the Daily Mirror, focussing instead on the bravery of the man who tried to stop the murder of Jo Cox MP. Awful tragedy in a land of free speech.
  • The Daily Mail laid in with "PM's TV MAULING OVER MIGRATION", in that his deal with the EU before announcing the Referendum didn't go far enough on immigration control. Indeed. There needs to be a sensible, enforceable "Emergency Brake".  It then went on to quote Jeremy Corbyn as saying immigration rules cannot be changed with UK within the EU, despite the fact he is backing Remain.  I don't agree. I think a better deal on immigration control can be achieved if negotiated properly.  It would also be done more quickly than by pressing the Brexit button, as that would take years.
  • The Guardian also focused on David Cameron's tv appearance, being given a hard time for not bringing down immigration. But there was no discussion of the issues above. Cameron wants the country to think about the economic effects of Brexit, and my gut feel is this is what will finally swing the vote to Remain.
  • The Times led with a headline revised to "Brexit camp divided as senior Tory walks out".  This was principally about immigration, with Lady Warsi saying the final straw for her was hearing Nigel Farage defending a poster with a line of refugees trudging across Europe.  The article went on to say David Cameron has vowed to seek further reforms from Brussels. let's hope an Emergency Brake is one of them.
  • The Independent took a broader look at the EU debate, given a shift in opinion polls back to a slight lead for Remain
  • The FT focused on the death of Jo Cox, allowing Cameron to say the Leave camp has created a hostile and intolerant climate in the country through its focus on immigration.
  • The Telegraph led with Boris Johnson urging people to vote to Leave. It quoted David Cameron as saying there needs to be tougher immigration controls if the UK is to stay in the EU.
So no paper covered the issues behind immigration control in their lead articles. Far more superficial, as one might expect. But there's still The Sun.

The Sun came out last week with 10 reasons to Brexit, written by former editor Kelvin McKenzie. Number 7 was about control of immigration, though he didn't say how or why. A quick search of the Sun website for possible reasons disclosed:
  • Another reference to Corbyn saying there would be no upper limit to immigration if remain in EU, under the title "JEZ USELESS". But nothing to suggest how immigration could be controlled by Brexit.
  • This article suggests the EU won't give an inch over Free Movement, as part of the EEA.  But doesn't suggest what form of Brexit would achieve their desired result on immigration control EEA does flex Free Movement under EFTA, with the likes of Norway. Surely there's a way with the EU? 
So what does the printed Sun say today? It focuses on Jezza's comments that "EU cap impossible if Remain wins". But still no explanation as to how Brexit would tackle the issue.

So nothing to challenge my analysis. Because controlling immigration by Brexit is taken as read?

Does that mean I'm the Stupid Boy or not?  Let's keep looking.


(1) Jo Cox MP, shortly before her murder "Brexit is no answer to real concerns on immigration"

This includes:

"First, because leaving the EU won’t solve the problem. Over half of all migrants to Britain come from outside the EU, and the result of this referendum will do nothing to bring these numbers down.

In fact, the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign have been promising that Brexit will allow Government to actually increase the amount of immigration from outside the EU, opening up a whole new tier of immigration to fill short-term vacancies."

"Second, we can deal with migration while remaining in the EU".

She goes on to talk in terms consistent with my analysis above.

(2) Fleet Street Foz (Suzie Boniface) has spent a lot of time talking about the truths of immigration:

(a) What can Nigel Farage actually do about immigration? 

She talks about the three categories of immigrants:
  1. EU nationals, which is the main category potentially affected by Brexit
  2. Asylum-seekers from outside the EU
  3. Others from outside the EU
She concludes that Nigel can do bugger all about any of these categories,. But in the case of the EU, seemingly because she doesn't see Leave winning rather than exploring any of my analysis. Luckily she's covered some of it in the following article:
(b) How to avoid getting screwed in the EU referendum

A major section of this article is about immigration, where by looking at non-EU immigrants she concludes "If you would like more migrants and refugees, VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU."

Sadly I can't find her analysis of EU migration control, so will ask her. ( I have but awaiting reply)


At this point I cannot find a better anaylsis of how to control immigration of EU nationals into the UK.  So I'll post this with the question to you:

  • Is there an analysis that basically supports mine?
  • Is there an analysis that shows mine to be incorrect.
Are VoteLeave selling a pup on immigration. Or is it just one big red herring?

But a better understanding of immigration is only one of  six reasons why Remain may win by as much as 80:20. See this short article.

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