Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Engine Behind Brexit

I highly recommend this from Tuesday 24 March 2015 by Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour
to foreign readers bemused by the forces driving Brexit. It's a Long Read article from the Guardian, hardly a xenophobic tabloid. It would seem there are a large majority of Labour (and Conservative) people who have yet to read it.
I do still consider myself a Labour voter by the way.


"In the wake of the party’s defeat in the 2010 election, there was a brief mass mea culpa about immigration, but even now Labour struggles to explain to a core part of its electorate the decisions that were taken on its watch."

"Between 1997 and 2010, net annual immigration quadrupled, and the UK population was boosted by more than 2.2 million"

" In the early years of the Blair government, income levels in most of the 15 member states were on a par with UK levels. Migration from the three poorer EU members at the time – Greece, Spain and Portugal, which joined in the “southern enlargement” of the 1980s – was relatively low, thanks in part to the generous EU funding of infrastructure projects in those countries."

"In 2004, 10 more countries – eight of which had been part of the eastern bloc during the cold war – became members of the EU."  ..." In anticipation of the enlargement of the EU, Blair’s government took the precaution of asking academics to assess the likely levels of immigration from countries in central and eastern Europe that were noticeably less well off. Per capita GDP, as measured in purchasing power parity, of the eight new member states was less than half the EU average.
The report that was produced by the Home Office, published in 2003, did not predict a dramatic increase in immigration from Europe."

"The projection of 13,000 net migrants per year over a decade"...." was based on the assumption that all 15 EU countries would open their labour markets to the newcomers, ensuring that the migrants would be reasonably evenly distributed across the EU. In the end, just Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened up. "

"Virtually all politicians now agree that the failure to impose transitional controls was a mistake."
"“The research looked well founded and evidence based,” ...(Former Minister John Denham)... "says of the Home Office predictions. “It is what government is supposed to do. The whole irony of this is that in some respects Tony Blair was obsessed by immigration, particularly about illegal immigration and abuse of the asylum system, but on EU migration there was a catastrophic failure of the civil service machine.”

"The response from the Whitehall machine to Denham’s memo was largely indifferent. “I sent a warning message to government about the impact of immigration in Southampton, saying Whitehall was not picking up quickly enough what was happening on the ground, or what the wider electorate were saying in response,” he recalls. “To be fair to government, it was probably true the impact at the time varied enormously from area to area, and there was real uncertainty about how long the impact would last. The reaction to migration was seen very differently in London, for instance, to other places.”

"Outlining the impact on the everyday lives of his constituents, Denham argued at the time that resentment of immigration would grow. “One of the problems was that people were supposed to register if they were employed but many came as self-employed,” Denham says. “The biggest impacts were in self-employed trades like construction, where you didn’t have to register.” In the memo, Denham stated that the daily rate for a builder in the city had fallen by 50% since 2004. He also noted that hospital accident and emergency services were under strain because migrants tended not to use GPs as a first port of call. It also turned out that the local further education college had to close its doors after 1,000 migrants attempted to sign up for an English-as-a-second-language course on one day. Whitehall, Denham argued, was wholly out of touch with the concerns of his constituents."

"Jacqui Smith, who was home secretary between 2007 and 2009, when the financial crisis began, agrees with Denham that Whitehall appeared out of touch. “I can remember seeing Treasury papers that said if we limit migration we will reduce our growth. There is a justification for that argument at a macro level, but if you say to people, ‘You may have seen some changes on your high street but it’s OK for macro-economic growth and there will be cultural benefits in London, you sound like you don’t get it,” says Smith."

"Jack Straw is frank about the failures, particularly the official projection of a mere 13,000 net migrants a year from the new EU member states. “It’s a case study of how good intentions and apparently good research can lead government in the wrong direction. But it was a very significant policy failure, done with the best of intentions and in a serious way because we’d got the research.”

It ends with this

"Ed Miliband knows immigration can be a potent issue. But he tends to lean towards dry policy solutions, such as ensuring that employment agencies cannot discriminate in favour of migrant workers. If Labour is to reconnect with its traditional supporters, it may have to think how to respond to those who, in the words of Jack Straw, feel they have not had a fair deal in life as the country changed around them after a series of largely accidental steps."

- Two months after this article was published, Ed Miliband resigned as leader of the Labour Party after it was crushed in the 2015 General Election.

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