To Brexit or not to Brexit? Migration will be an issue either way
The pending referendum on the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union is increasingly a matter for intense, and occasionally passionate, debate. Even US president Barack Obama has offered a view. The British public will go to the polls on June 23rd to decide whether or not they wish the UK to remain a formal entity of the EU. Whichever way the vote goes, there will be deep and lasting consequences for those already holding British passports as well as those who may seek them, or who may seek the right to live and work in the UK in the future.
The argument promoted by proponents of the ‘out’ campaign is that withdrawal from the EU will allow the UK to cease to abide by the principle of the free movement of people that currently applies across the EU. However, as Anthony Hilton described in the Evening Standard recently, the practicalities of such hands-on boarder management are seldom recognised.
Affirming some aspects of the out campaign rhetoric, the OECD has published a report recently predicting that leaving the EU will cut Britain’s net migration by up to 84,000 a year – and possibly as much as 115,000 in what they describe as a worst case scenario. The current figure stands at 323,000. The same organization also suggested that Brexit would leave British households up to £2,200 per year worse off, although it also pointed to what it calls the ‘growth dividend’ that migrant workers deliver.
Beneath those headline figures there are countless businesses that would be hit hard by any restriction on migrant EU labour. Equally, the growing dependence of services such as the NHS on migrant labour is not something that should be ignored. The UK is highly dependent on what some call immigrant labour.
Despite the rhetoric, however, the vote on June 23rd will not alter the fact that the migration of huge numbers of people around the world is a very real feature of the world we now live in.
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