Seven reasons why we defend Free Movement

One Day Without Us photo Steve Eason

One Day Without Us photo Steve Eason

  1. Migrants are net contributors to society.

All serious economic research has shown that migrants make a substantial net contribution to the British economy. This is largely because a disproportionate number of them tend to be working-age adults. In a report issued in 2013, for example, University College London’s migration research unit estimated that the net annual value of the contributions of new arrivals to UK public finances was £25 billion. Specifically, migrants from the European Economic Area were estimated to have paid 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits in the ten years from 2001 to 2011.

  1. Migrant labour boosts the economy

A 2016 study by University College London academics showed that the arrival of EU migrants was correlated with an improving economy and labour market. Between 2010 and 2015, they discovered, 850,000 Europeans arrived to work in Britain, but at the same time a million more Britons entered the workforce. They concluded that: ‘mass European migration is actually fuelling the relative growth of the UK economy that in turn is making Britain ‘the jobs factory of Europe’ that brings them here. This, of course, is only what we should expect. It is an example of the ‘multiplier effect’, where activity in one part of the economy stimulates activity in others, in a continuous feedback mechanism.

  1. Migrants fill gaps in the labour market

The same University College London study in 2016 also found that 60% of new migrants from Western and Southern Europe had university degrees, and 25% from Eastern Europe. The authors concluded that Britain was attracting the highest number of university-educated migrants of any country in the EU year after year to work in the financial, technology, and media industries. Public services are also highly dependent on foreign staff, perhaps most notably the NHS, where 25% of doctors and 10% of nurses are from overseas.

  1. Migrants do not increase unemployment

Research by the highly respected National Institute of Economic and Social Research has concluded that immigration to Britain has little or not impact on overall levels of unemployment, even when the economy is in recession. There appears to be no link between migrant inflows and the overall level of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance. This is almost certainly a reflection of the fact that most migrants are filling jobs for which local labour is not available. In any case, the distinction between domestic migrants and overseas migrants – though central to right-wing discourse – is clearly arbitrary. Moreover nearly all studies of the effect of migration on jobs and wages neglect to include the effect of job creation through enterprise by migrants. Migrants create more jobs than their actual numbers.

  1. Immigration controls damage the economy

Recent research on the impact of Brexit by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests that the effect of restrictions on migration will be almost as damaging as restrictions on trade. The negative effects – cutting growth of GDP by between 3.4% and 5.4% over a decade – would far outweigh any modest effect on the wages of workers of low-skilled jobs. One of the report’s authors said: ‘Prior to the referendum, a number of analyses estimated the long-term impacts of Brexit on the UK economy; but none incorporated the impacts of Brexit-induced reductions in migration. Our estimates suggest that the negative impacts on per-capita GDP will be significant, potentially approaching those from reduced trade.’ As far as wages are concerned this research shows that ending free movement could possibly increase unskilled wages by 0.1% over a five year period but would probably NOT once these deleterious effects of ending free movement on the economy as a whole is taken into account.

  1. Immigration controls attack the victims of the system

The debate about immigration is rooted in nationalism, racism, and scapegoat politics. Restrictions involve borders, deportations, detention centres, and immigration police; they legitimise racism, give the green-light to thugs, and lead to aggravated levels of abuse and violence directed at minorities. They involve the denigration, persecution, and oppression of the victims of the system, both domestic minorities, and those fleeing war and poverty overseas. They are the mark of a barbaric, inhumane, dysfunctional social order.

  1. Immigration controls divide the working class and weaken the labour movement

The purpose and effect of the discourse around immigration is to confuse, divide, and disable effective working-class organisation and united popular resistance. Left unity stands foursquare with the most oppressed against the racists and the far right. And that means speaking out loud and clear, against racism, for migration, in defence of the existing right of free movement in the EU and seeking to extend that right to others.



7 responses to “Seven reasons why we defend Free Movement”

  1. orla says:

    ‘Migrants’ are people!

    • sushma lal says:

      Agree with everything. However, why is it with reference to the Brexit. The EU is the most racist organisation which there is. It is very annoying and depressing that the left does not see that the current free movement only applies to white EU residents. What about the people from the rest of the world and specially from the Commonwealth i.e. Asians and Africans who can claim to have the first right due to their countries’ exploitation by Britain. At the time immigration rules were changed in order to allow the EU nationals, all the rights which were inadequate even then, were changed to really draconian and extremely oppressive rules against the ex Commonwealth citizens. Most of the right of appeal were dispensed with and generally made life distressing and demeaning. No mention of these hardships to the Asians in your article or in any article, statement or policy suggested by the left . The disproportionate bias in favour of the EU nationals is in fact blatant racism in my view.
      Labour Party is making a mistake. Brexit was voted for by a great number of Asians as well. I know from my own experience that Oldham was solidly for Brexit.
      Under the present climate it will be difficult to demand free movement for the Asians too. However, this real racist policy can be made, at least, non racist by demanding a point based system which may apply to anybody without any discrimination and on more solid grounds.

      • Felicity Dowling says:

        Left Unity is very conscious of the appalling experience of migration which faces those from outside the EU.We are fully in support of free movement as a human right. The Yarlswood situation is appalling as are the numbers of families kept apart by migration riles and the UK government position that family life can e conducted by skype.
        Very many people believe that migration causes problems. This is true in all communities. However we think this is untrue and wish to argue against that point.There was a time when people belived that paying women equal wages would make men and families poorer. That, like the migration issue, was a fallacy.
        Left Unity rejects the idea that defending EU migrants in any way takes from defence of other migrants.
        In our work with the European Left Party from the outset we have joined campaigns to defend migration and refugee rights.
        We also challenge the existing economic model which pulls resources into the global north and into key centres inthe global north. Globalised capitalism causes these population movements. A better world than this is possible.

  2. P Ward says:

    I do not like the first five arguments in this article. They are all contingent on the fact that at the moment the people coming to live and work in the UK overall have a net “beneficial effect on the economy”.

    This begs several questions. The first one is that the argument carries with it the implication that if migration into the UK did not have this “beneficial effect”, then our attitude to migration might be different. For me, it is a point of principle to support migration and free movement of people. Ultimately, it is because there is nothing special about “nations” as such, except that they serve to divide the working class.

    A second point is what this benefit to the economy is. It is a capitalist economy, which is very likely to enter an existential crisis in the next 20 to 30 years, as a result of climate change and because it cannot realistically double in size again, as it has been doing for the last 150 years, without completely trashing the conditions that allow it to exist. (I’m perhaps pessimistically assuming it won’t be replaced by working class power in that time). How do socialists judge “benefits” to an individual nation’s capitalist economy?

    So, I’m with the comment above: “migrants are people”.

  3. David Landau says:

    I agree with P Ward. 30 years ago people argued that more people were emigrating than immigrated. But that changed. Our principle should remain the same. The contingent arguments are important to reply specific myths in the Mail, Express etc, but they are not the basis of our opposition to immigration controls. Opening our borders to the refugees and migrants caused by the humanitarian crisis, probably would cause more of a strain than a short turn gain, for the economy and people living here. But it is still the right thing to do and a thing to fight for

  4. BladeRunner says:

    Freedom of Movement. Of course! But what about Freedom Of Labour?

  5. BladeRunner says:

    I really don’t know if this will be popular with the working class. Labour aren’t exactly doing very well with the whole “open doors” approach. I think we should allow Freedom Of Movement, but not Freedom Of Labour. Let’s not drive the UK wages down even further. Let’s not let agencies employ people abroad. Let’s not overpopulate. It doesn’t always matter about growth. Look at how some European countries operate, they don’t always grow every year, but they still manage to support the people in employment, keep the welfare system afloat and keep public services in check. There will come a time where a country cannot possibly “grow” any further without either fiddling with the numbers or destroying the environment. We have to think long term…and open door immigration cannot be a long term solution on an island as small as ours.

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