Last week’s release of statistics about migration into the UK provided a predictable up turn in the Leave’s xenophobic arguments.
It’s true that as long as we remain in the EU, we will have limited control over immigration from other EU countries.
However slightly more than half of immigration into the UK comes from outside the EU and the UK does have control over which non-EU migrants it chooses to admit.
Leaving the EU would not lead to a large reduction in immigration.
Critically linked to the question of migration is the question of how the Leave campaign think we are going to trade with other countries if we leave the EU. Would they want us to continue to participate in the EU single market after leaving the EU?
If so we would have to accept free movement of employment as do Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The Leave campaign are so muddled over this absolutely crucial issue for our economic stability, they cannot agree amongst themselves and have talked of adopting the Norway model, the Swiss model, the Canadian model, the World Trade Organisation model and even the Albanian model.
How can people vote for such total lack of clarity on the key aspect of how we are going to trade with the EU – nearly half of our exports – if we were to leave the EU?
Interestingly both Norway and Switzerland both have higher immigration per head of population from the EU than the UK, as of 2013.
Recently arrived EU immigrants pay more in tax than they consume in welfare or public services, so they actually benefit the public finances as well as working in our vital services like the NHS.
I benefitted personally from this recently when having an operation on my hand at the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead.
So ‘controlling immigration’ would require leaving the single market as well as the EU and thus directly hitting our exports.
It’s also likely that specific arrangements with other EU countries would have to be negotiated, either as part of an overall withdrawal negotiation or as two-way ‘bilateral’ agreements.
For example, this may be needed to clarify the position of EU citizens already here and deporting them seems politically very unlikely.
Do we have enough UK bureaucrats to cope with all the negotiations necessary to enable us to function in the world after a Brexit?
All these questions have been avoided by the Leave campaigners because they do not have a coherent response to any of them – or perhaps they simply have no idea and so duck the issues.
Stephen Hardy MBE
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