Free Movement is Getting Caught in the Net

Considering that net migration was one of the main concerns of the EU referendum, the news that peers have warned that free movement will not reduce immigration numbers must have come as a shock to many. After all, for those who hung on every promise of reduced immigration it might even seem like yet another broken promise.

The NHS not getting the £350m per week; the fact that we had never given up sovereignty; news that leaving the EU could prove very expensive… all of these new revelations probably have some Brexit voters reeling, and some Remain voters pulling their hair out in frustration. That’s the problem with running a campaign on media hyperbole and fantastical reporting.

Free Movement is going round in circles

Surely, if we think logically about this, the EU was never going to give the UK free rein to slam the door on free movement but still expect to call the shots on all the other negotiations. I addressed this issue in a blog I wrote back in September 2016 called: “All bets are off for Brexit.” Even nearly six months ago I was arguing that there is no way to guarantee what the movement of EU migrants would be in post-Brexit Britain other than the UK does not hold all the cards.

With this new look at the issue seeing the Lords now join the same argument I am left slightly aghast that we are still confused about it. Theresa May was forced to submit a bill for triggering Article 50 because of an incorrect assumption that she could do so without the sovereignty of parliament behind her. Now she has been knocked back by the Lords, who want more guarantee for current EU residents.

The circles we keep going round are making me dizzy with frustration.

The fact that the Lords committee was “struck by the weaknesses and gaps in the UK’s migration statistics” only goes to show that it is high time that more expertise was brought in to deal with these issues. Our party political system is too self-serving. It’s a closed “boy’s club” headed by a Prime Minister that came from the Home Office. Something about that step-up for Theresa May has always struck me as slightly too…convenient.

Fumbling with the Net?

I don’t wish to spark off “conspiracy theories,” but I cannot help wonder at the real, hidden agenda of the Conservatives. Are they merely trying to strengthen their very weak hold on the public? The Tories have hammered the poorest in our society into submission; they still have 124,000 homeless children they have yet to address; they are driving the sick and unhealthy back into work on the threat of sanctions, whilst removing the support networks from the other side.

And quotes from the Home Office like this really concern me:

“Once we have left the European Union it will be the Government that sets our immigration rules.

“We are currently considering the various options as to how EU migration might work once we have left and it would be wrong to set out further positions at this stage.”

The fact that this is still being fumbled over nearly nine months after the vote doesn’t fill me with any confidence as to the competency of the government to handle the matter. Clearly they never considered both possible results of the EU Referendum, in terms of free movement and otherwise. Therefore, treating net migration as a king of “hot potato” issue offers no solution to a range of issues.

It’s like watching freshly caught fish flapping madly in the net.

I also wrote a blog in September on immigration and Australian rules called “What’s the Point in Immigration Control?” So if we were addressing these issues in discussion in September, what on earth is going on in the Houses of Parliament if they are still discussing it in March? After all, this isn’t just a matter of maths and statistics, it’s a matter of people’s lives, jobs and families.

No-one seems to know what kind of immigration rules will fully apply and how free movement will be affected post-Brexit. Even after Article 50 is triggered we will still have two years of negotiation to wait. How long do these people need?

We cannot just slam the door on EU migrants because too many of our industries rely on them. So any threat to fully close the borders is an empty one. Nor can we afford to even pretend that we won’t also need to maintain positive trade relations of some kind. That means our partnerships with EU based companies will need to continue, and if that is the case, we will still need to make travelling to and from businesses in the EU and UK will require some level of free movement.

The further problem is that immigration from non-EU states has always been above EU migration, so free movement has not ever been the main factor in our net migration. Combine that with the act that the only difference would really be the need for an application. If non-EU migrants still gain entry, work, stay, apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and so on, why won’t EU nationals also do that?

So have we all been duped for too long into believing that “controlled” immigration means the same as “reduced” when there is no evidence of that being the case?

Playing Limbo with the Lords

Perhaps that is one of the main things that ruffles my feathers the most. Regardless of my own political stance or which way I voted, I still find it unacceptable that millions of families are left in limbo, wondering what will happen to them. As Hilary Benn has said, they are hard working people with families, lives and roots set in the country.

The Lords have challenged the lack of guarantee for current resident EU migrants, and voiced their opinions on free movement.

That would be the Lords – the UK’s own “unelected” house; apparently looking after the interests of the electorate with more conviction than our own, elected MPs.

Read our very popular blog “UK Immigration Law: Oh, Lords!” for more on this issue.