Friday, August 25, 2006

UK - EU immigration policy

When is an ‘open door’ immigration policy not an ‘open door’ immigration policy? Answer: when it’s a-jar.

Both the UK conservative press and lefty liberal press have reacted a little squeamishly this week to the news of UK Home Office figures showing that, including the self-employed, over half a million Poles and other central Europeans have joined the UK workforce since the expansion of the EU in 2004.

The tabloid Sun – never a friend of the immigrant – screamed about how Poles and others had forced down British wages. And the Guardian ‘liberal’ columnist Polly Toynbee wrote exactly the same thing, claiming that to support the open door policy was to support American neo-cons (!):

‘Near-full employment should mean pay rises – but cheap imported labour helps keep it low….[and a ] 10-year unbroken burst of growth’ and a decrease ‘in pay inflation’ are a consequence of ‘cheap imported labour’.

Both the opposition Conservative party and many on the New Labour front bench are calling for Romanians and Bulgarians to not be given the same opportunities to come and work in Britain when they join the EU next year.

But not all British journalists are scared of the Polish plumber. Neil Davenport at Spiked has been refreshingly forthright:

The case for an open-door policy should be central to any meaningful discussion of immigration. People from Poland to Peru, Estonia to Ethiopia, should be allowed to come and live and work in Britain as they see fit. What is wrong with people moving around the globe in search of work and a better quality of life? Draconian controls on human movement are not only an affront to individual freedom and liberty; they also popularise dangerous Malthusian notions that society’s problems are caused by there being ‘too many people’. …

Whatever arguments are used to justify them, the truth is that immigration controls are a disgrace and a menace to freedom, liberty and prosperity. That half-a-million Eastern Europeans have passed through Britain to live and work is good news for them, and us. Apparently, a million-strong ‘Romanian invasion’ is heading this way, too. Bring ’em all in, I say.

Britain should keep its doors wide open and not be so scared of being ‘swamped’ and ‘flooded’ by central and eastern Europeans. A rich country like the UK should have a little more confidence in itself.


Gustav said...

Draconian controls on human movement are not only an affront to individual freedom and liberty; they also popularise dangerous Malthusian notions that society’s problems are caused by there being ‘too many people’. …

Whatever arguments are used to justify them, the truth is that immigration controls are a disgrace and a menace to freedom, liberty and prosperity.

Amen, brother.

Nick Clegg, a politician for the Lib Dems, also wrote this intelligent piece which advocates not only opening the doors in Britain to Bulgarian and Romanian workers, but reminds readers that it is within their European rights to move freely within the EU - at least eventually - and points out that this is one issue in Europe that Britain is leading on. Rather than going backwards, Britain should be encouraging countries like Germany and Austria to follow its lead.

sonia said...

Well, Beatroot, you're not exactly neutral in that debate. If Britain tries to deport all the Poles legally working there, Poland might be tempted to deport British citizens legally working in Poland - and that includes you, my friend...

But don't worry. If Jozef Korzeniowski could have changed his name to Joseph Conrad, surely Mister Beatroot can change his name to Pan Burak and pretend to be Polish...

Anonymous said...

Hi Beatroot, In the states, there are ten million illegal Mexicans. Its in the news alot. I say they can stay if they are here legally. Its not fair to others who are trying to get in legally. The Mexicans don't seem as distant as the Muslims of Europe, though.


beatroot said...

Free movement of labour is a political principle of mine...always has been.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Beatroot, I sound own apprehension after 9/11.


beatroot said...

No I don't think prejudice. I was responding to Sonia who was claiming that I could not be objective about immigration.

Anonymous said...

The presence of a large number of people prepared to work for lower wages (because, for example, their families' cost of living back home are lower than in the host country) should, logically speaking, drive down wages. It's not racist to say so, though whether wages have in fact been driven down should be the subject of empirical investigation (which is much harder to do than write an opinion column).

Downward pressure on wages should be faced up to and tackled, by, for instance, strictly enforcing minimum wage laws and collectively bargained pay rates, severely punishing employers who exploit the new migrants and so forth. Under a labour government all that should be a given....

beatroot said...

But wages have not been driven down for all jobs...only the low paid ones. And if the government and anyone else doesn't like that - I don't - then we should campaign for a higher minimum wage to cover ALL workers not just Polish or Czech ones.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. This half-equal status (for example in Ireland Polish workers cannot claim social welfare until they have been habitually resident for two years - they want the sweat of Polish brows but they won't help them if anything goes wrong) does no one any favours, at least no one who works.

Robert Jackman said...

Hello - it's time for a serious migration debate in the UK but at the moment it seems the Government are not committed to start any real debate and dispelling the myths installed by the xenophobic right wing press. I made a comment about this in my blog a few weeks ago if you'd care to have a look and leave a comment :)

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