According to recent headlines both in the print media and on the well-informed and impartial BBC TV (not) the UK is heading for Brexit disaster on two fronts. First, Teresa May’s Brexit negotiators will be compelled to agree to free movement of EU citizens “the same as Norway has” in exchange for access to the single market. And if they refuse to agree, then UK businesses and the NHS will suffer or go out of business because of lack of workers needed from Europe, especially seasonal workers.
This issue is a complete red herring, and the matter is very easily resolved. Norway has already negotiated with the EU a trade deal whereby in exchange for access to the single market, it allows free entry of EU Workers (not EU citizens as the BBC and others mistakenly insist).
This measure will slash immigration to UK by around 60%.
According to the independent fact checking charity (https://fullfact.org/immigration/eu-migration-and-uk ) who take their figures from the Government’s Office of National Statistics, in the year to March 2016, about 270,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK.
Of these, 41% already had a job (110,000) 31% (83,700) were looking for work, 9% (24,300) were accompanying immigrants or joining EU immigrants already here, and 14% ( 37,800) were coming here to study, 4% (10,800) were unspecified.
When we have concluded the same deal as Norway, that we allow free movement of EU workers, rather than EU citizens, then instead of 270,000 EU immigrants, we would have more like 110,000 immigrants – that is those with a job.
Other EU citizens wishing to come here, looking for work or joining others already here, would have to apply and meet whatever criteria we decide to draw up.
Note that this arrangement also solves the media-generated and Remoanian-hyped non-problem of “British industry relies on EU workers and will collapse without them”. No-one objects to people coming here and doing a job of work.
I predict a healthy expansion of the UK recruitment industry arranging for the inward travel of genuine EU workers, including seasonal workers, which will add nicely to the growth we are already seeing.
UPDATE 15 SEPTEMBER 2016
One of the many causes of Britain’s collapse if we leave the EU, according to David Cameron and the Remain campaign was the critical dependence of British farmers on foreign workers to pick our fruit and veg for minimimum wages. Tens of thousands are needed ever year – without free movement, Britain is doomed, we were told.
It turns out that in fact Britain has had in place for more than 60 years the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) which grants temporary visas ( up to 6 months) to just such workers. Since long before the EU was even founded, Britain has made arrangements for foreign workers to come here each year, mainly from Europe.
Now the present government has held talks with farmers leaders about expanding the scheme post-Brexit and is keen to help British farmers keep production here by allowing them to bring in temporary workers not just from the EU but from all over the world under a revamped SAWS.
The workers can stay here temporarily for the picking season, but cannot settle, or draw benefits.
One other interesting piece of information to emerge from this news is that America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all are critically dependent on foreign workers to do the backbreaking work picking their fruit and veg.
Of the roughly one million farm workers in the United States, most are immigrants, and an estimated one-quarter to one-half of them are illegal. So it will be interesting to see how a future President Trump plans to deal with this problem, especially in the light of his promise to build a wall to keep Mexicans out.