A lot of people have genuine fears about immigration and especially that we have ‘lost control’ of our borders. Those who want Britain to leave the EU argue this is the only way to ‘regain control’.
Most migrants to the UK are not from Europe and must comply with strict rules under the Points Based System. Only those with the right skills and cash get in. The system can be so tough because employers have access to workers from the EU. If applied to everyone who wants to come into the country, the rules would wreck havoc to a range of sectors of our economy.
The rules are harsher than the Australian system which UKIP claim they would use as a model for the UK.
So if the UK left the EU could we still have two systems based on those from Europe and those outside? If we tried to impose any sort of restrictions to EU citizens, there would be a high price to be paid in either restrictions on free trade or tighter border controls for British people wanting to travel.
People move around for all sorts of reasons: work, study, love, pleasure and safety. Few people want a return to border controls and visas. The South West is the most visited region in the country for tourism. Try swapping the word ‘migrants’ for ‘tourists’ in the headlines. Tourism, out of control; coming over here occupying houses, jamming our roads and lying all over our beaches.
Those who spread fear about a few dozen Syrian refugees coming to the South West will probably value the thousands of foreigners who come on holiday. Tourism is seen as a key part of our economy, employing thousands and bringing valuable cash to the region. But workers are low paid, training is poor and the bigger tourism gets the lower our overall productivity becomes. It also relies heavily on migrant labour including bar staff from Australia, Polish cleaners, French chefs and the rest.
Population in parts of the South West doubles in the summer months. This doesn’t cause a break down in essential services; there is not rioting in the streets of St Ives. Why are some people relaxed about this but vexed about the tiny numbers of migrants?
Population movements scare people yet we take for granted our own right to travel or move. There is about the same number of Brits across the EU as EU citizens in Britain. Leaving the EU offers a false sense of control over borders and we may lose more in jobs and freedoms.
Still, if we leave the EU, British workers may lose the legal right to paid holidays so that will free up some space on the beach…
Thanks to Nigel Costley, South West TUC secretary, for this guest post