The first half of my article quoted from a recent Economist article and suggested that the writer had failed to answer the Eurosceptic case. But what about the great issue of this debate – immigration?
The Economist observes, in a rather superior way, that “If Britain leaves the EU it will be precisely because a lot of voters mistrust foreigners and globalisation.” Our discussions with people on the doorstep confirm that immigration is indeed the most important issue in people’s minds and the polls confirm that. Free movement of labour is one of the cardinal principles of the EU and for that reason alone, if for no other, we need to leave. But let us spell out for benefit of the Economist, why the voters are right. It’s not prejudice – it’s basic economics.
All employers have to keep their costs as low as they can. Free movement of labour means that employers can cut wage costs very considerably, because immigrants are willing to work for lower wages. You can’t blame the employers. They have to make a profit. Nor can you blame the immigrants. They come from countries where wages are far lower than they are in the UK. But because immigrants are willing to work for lower wages, the general level of wages in Britain – for everybody, whether resident or immigrant – is lower. It is also more difficult to get a job, because there is more competition.
The ordinary voter is not an employer; he or she is more likely to be an employee. It’s not surprising that there should be a reaction amongst British employees, who are also voters, against excessive immigration from the low-wage countries of Eastern Europe. And now there’s a real emergency, because the open-door policy of the EU is allowing large numbers of people from Asia and Africa – many of them from even poorer countries – to come into the EU as well. Once they’re established in the EU, there’s absolutely nothing that our government can legally do to stop them coming into Britain and competing in our jobs market. And what concerns British people even more is that ISIS are boasting that they have used the uncontrolled flow of people to infiltrate their terrorists into Europe.
There’s no way that the British people are going to allow this kind of uncontrolled immigration. The problem is getting more acute all the time and the longer the referendum is postponed, the more certain does it become that the result will be a vote for us to leave the EU. Brexit would of course mean no further free movement of people from the EU or from anywhere else. Immigration would be carefully controlled and would be on a much smaller scale.
The Europhiles are losing the referendum argument and they know it. The Economist sounds at least half convinced by the Out case:
The Utopia of globally minded Eurosceptics is a British economy set free from burdensome Brussels regulation, retaining access to Europe’s single market, no longer paying into the EU budget, trading freely with the rest of the world and setting its own limits on immigration.
And the writer fails to answer the Out case. The only troubling argument deployed byThe Economist is that Brexit might lead to a replay of the Scottish independence issue.
And it is a very troubling argument. It’s true that the result of the Scottish referendum showed that the SNP does not fully represent Scotland. But Brexit at the cost of the Union would be a tragic mistake.
At the time of the Scottish referendum, the Auld Alliance with France (now with the EU) sounded like a good way of avoiding isolation after independence. The full implications of EU membership were not being considered. The independence issue had prevented EU membership from coming to the top of the political agenda in Scotland. Let’s face it – the argument that Brexit would tear apart the United Kingdom is based on the premise that the Scots are too stupid to notice that there is no sense in jumping out of the London frying pan into the Brussels fire. The Scots have their moments of hysteria (so do the English) but they are not stupid. The Economist thinks they are; but then the the Economist probably thinks that English and Welsh voters are stupid too.
Nevertheless Scotland is currently the weakest point in our case. It needs our full attention.