Yves here. Even though polls showed that immigration was not the biggest reasons for Leave voters making that choice, the Tory government has made the supposed need to control immigration a major reason for triggering a hard Brexit.
We pointed out previously that non-EU immigration accounted for more than half of total immigration since 10 countries joined the EU in 2004. This post provides a critical fact: that the UK had ample power under EU rules to keep immigration from the EU at much lower levels than actually took place. In other words, the influx of Eastern European workers was the result of the desire to suppress wages, which worked out all too well, rather than the UK bowing to supposedly unduly permissive EU rules.
By Zsolt Darvas, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Associate Professor at the Corvinus University of Budapest. Originally published at Bruegel
Immigration to the UK was a key issue in the Brexit debate and has also received a great deal of attention since the referendum. According to the recent white paper from the UK Government on Brexit principles, control of immigration will be a key priority.
Point 5.3 of the white paper states that “It is simply not possible to control immigration overall when there is unlimited free movement of people to the UK from the EU”, suggesting that EU mobility rules were responsible for the surge in immigration and the UK did not have a control.
I find this claim potentially misleading, for two reasons:
- By respecting all EU rules, net immigration of non-British citizens to the UK could have been cut by a stunning 82% in 2004-11 and also rather significantly since then. It was a UK decision not to control immigration.
- EU rules allow unlimited free movement of people only for a duration up to three months. For longer periods, only workers, the very rich and students can stay in another EU country.
Let me elaborate on these two points and then draw lessons for future UK immigration policies.
UK Decisions Have Led to the Surge in Immigration Since the Mid-1990s, Not the EU’s Labour Mobility Principle
The striking message of Figure 1 is that the bulk of immigrants to the UK since 1991 arrived from outside the EU.
On average, in 2004-11, 71% of non-British immigrants arrived from outside the EU. Their ratio was still as high as 65% in 2012 and 52% on average in 2013-15. No EU rule forced the UK to admit so many non-EU citizens: it was a UK decision.
In these figures we should distinguish asylum seekers, who were allowed to enter the UK on humanitarian grounds. On average in 2004-11, asylum seekers accounted for 5% of non-British immigrants, while their share was 7% in 2013-15. Thereby, if the UK was interested in mitigating the inflow of people from non-EU countries beyond asylum seekers, UK authorities could have cut immigration by 66% in 2004-11 and 45% in 2013-15.
Certainly, in the event of temporary immigration restrictions on EU8 nationals in 2004-11 by the UK, citizens of these countries could have come to the UK after the end of the seven-year period. However, most likely, many of those EU8 citizens who actually immigrated to the UK in 2004-11 would have immigrated to other EU15 countries and settled there and therefore the imposition of seven-year temporary controls by the UK would have likely reduced total immigration from these countries significantly.
Moreover, the accession treaties with new EU member states allowed a transition period of up to seven years, during which older EU member states had the option to maintain immigration restrictions on the citizens of newer member states. They also had the option to introduce such controls during the seven-year transition period, even if they have abolished the restrictions earlier, provided that there was a serious disturbance on their labour markets.
Twelve of the fifteen other older EU member states used this option and adopted temporary immigration controls, but the UK, Ireland and Sweden opened their labour markets directly from 1 May 2004 for nationals of the eight central European countries (EU8) that joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Furthermore, the UK did not introduce controls later in the 7-year transition period, when immigration from these countries sharply increased. Immigration from EU8 accounted for on average 16% of non-British net immigration in 2004-11.
Therefore, even when respecting all EU rules, 2004-11 net immigration of non-British citizens to the UK could have been cut by a stunning 82% (71% non-EU minus 5% asylum seekers plus 16% EU8). But UK authorities decided not to do that.
The UK Government’s white paper does not even mention these facts, but seems to blame EU mobility rules for the surge in net immigration since the mid-1990s. This is simply incorrect.
In my view, there are various possible reasons why the UK government allowed immigration to increase from the mid-1990. These include both economic and political factors.
Firstly, these immigrants brought major economic benefits to the UK, which is also recognised by the white paper (see points 5.2, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7 and 5.8). I also wrote a post on this issue before the Brexit referendum. Political reasons could include a desire to support and welcome citizens of Commonwealth countries (who accounted for about half of non-EU immigration). There might also have been a recognition of Western European countries’ historical responsibility to re-unite the continent after the disastrous decades of communism in Central Europe. Or perhaps the UK wanted to show a “pro-European” face.
EU Free Mobility Rules Do Not Allow Unlimited Establishment of Residency in Other EU Countries
The sentence I quoted from the white paper at the start of my blogpost talks about “unlimited free movement of people to the UK from the EU”. There is also a box on page 28 explaining EU’s mobility rules, which concludes: “The Free Movement Directive sets out the rights of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU. This Directive replaced most of the previous European legislation facilitating the migration of the economically active and it consolidated the rights of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU.”
These statements greatly exaggerate the options available to EU citizens and are therefore potentially misleading. EU mobility rules, as set out in the Free Movement Directive, continue to focus on mobility of workers.
There is indeed unlimited free movement of tourists, and any citizen of an EU country can stay in another EU country for a period of three months without conditions.
However, a citizen of an EU country can stay in another EU country for more than three months only in three cases:
- If she/he finds a job (becomes employed or self-employed), or
- If she/he and accompanying family have sufficient resources and sickness insurance and do not become a burden on the social assistance system of the host member state, or
- If she/he has a student status and sufficient resources to cover living expenses and sickness insurance.
New jobseekers have a slightly more preferential treatment. Following European Court of Justice rulings, they can stay up to six (and not three) months. However, a six-month period is not that long and after six months host country authorities can ask the jobseeker to leave if she/he cannot prove to have a realistic chance of finding work there (see here). Host country authorities can also expel the jobseeker, although this cannot be an automatic process and all relevant circumstances have to be considered.
Therefore, the free residency right can be exercised unconditionally only for a period up to three months, for jobseekers up to six months. But only workers (and their family members), students and the very rich who do not rely on the social assistance system of the host country can stay for longer. Permanent residency is acquired only after a continuous period of five years legal residency according to the conditions described above.
These EU rules have important implications for a possible surge in immigration prior to Brexit:
The UK Should Not Worry That Much About a Possible Surge in Immigration From EU Countries Prior to Brexit
Even if immigration from EU countries surges before Brexit, it is unlikely that those who come in excess of regular immigration patterns would find a job. There is a natural rate of job creation. Therefore, those new immigrants who are not able to find a job will become unauthorised after six months, and if they do not leave voluntarily, the UK will have to right to expel them.
What To Conclude for the New UK immigration System After Brexit?
The economic reasons for allowing immigration to increase from the mid-1990 prevail. When labour shortages arise, authorities can either allow foreign nationals to enter, or to create tensions in the labour market and cut economic growth, which would have negative feedback effects on UK public finances and taxes paid by British citizens.
The ‘Global Britain’ vision of Prime Minister Theresa May involves attracting foreign investment, which will come with people. For example, when a US financial conglomerate establishes an office in the City of London, it will bring many employees from abroad. When a Japanese manufacturer establishes a factory in the UK, it will again bring many workers. In the age of digitalisation, IT investments will require more and more IT experts from India and other parts of the world, simply because there are not enough within the UK.
The next question is the immigration control mandate UK authorities received from the Brexit referendum. It is difficult to infer public opinion about immigration and what kind of control the majority of UK nationals would like to see. We only know that the share of leave votes at the Brexit referendum was actually lower in areas where there are more immigrants (Figure 2). This suggests that voters in areas where there are more immigrants were more in favour of EU-membership and possibly of the free labour mobility principle which comes with it.
Note: the dots represent the 133 NUTS3 regions of England, while the line shows the regression line. The same relationship holds within Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Sources: The Electoral Commission and Office for National Statistics (see detailed data sources in the annex here).
There are compelling economic reasons in favour of immigration, and the Brexit referendum gave an ambiguous message about the UK’s future immigration policy. I therefore suggest that the UK should not introduce an overly tight immigration control system.
This post is partly based on my testimony at the House of Lords EU committee on UK-EU immigration issues on 18 January 2017. I thank Inês Goncalves Raposo for her great help in my preparation for the testimony.
This kind of “blame the EU” strategy for covering up the governments own unpopular decisions is exactly why the EU is such a bad idea – ouside of the EU, we may again get governments capable of tackling the UK’s many problems rather than a pack of feckless trough-snouters.
The real strategy was the Bliars sop to business to compensate for his great minimum wage con of the workers.
He signed treaties giving companies the ability to employ EU nationals on the minimum wage in their home state, in eastern Europe and most elsewhere, much lower than the UK minimum. He then allowed those EU nationals to move here.
Rob, do you have any proof of what you’re saying?
This is the first time I come across such claim and, let’s be honest, given the cost of life in the UK, how could someone coming from one of the poorest countries in the EU be able to survive?
We’re talking average wages of 400-500 euros here.
I have read that low-end wages dropped a good deal in the UK after immigration picked up. I can’t imagine to the levels back home, otherwise why would people come and stay?
The headline is wrong. It should be “reduced immigration by 82%” but not “reduced EU immigration”
That is a bit like saying that bricks are a bad idea because some of the local lags are using them to throw at the police!
When I emigrated to the UK in 1990 one thing that always struck me was that there was an almost reflex action, even among the educated and professional, to essentially blame the EU for anything they didn’t like. Silly health and safety rules? ‘oh, thats the EU’. ‘Water bills going up? ‘Eu Directive’, etc., etc. It was pretty much an automatic response. Occasionally, it was true, but more often than not even a few minutes research always showed the rule in question was either entirely of UK origin, or was due to an unnecessary UK response to an innocuous Directive. There was no nuance at all, the only thing I found people liked about the EU was easy travel and being able to buy a house in France. There seemed to me a complete failure to engage intellectually with what the EU actually was and is.
So its not surprising at all that it got the blame for immigration (I suspect that polls indicating that it was not no.1 are distorted, people prefer to appear high minded when questioned by pollsters, the Tories know their constituents better). Countries such as Denmark managed to maintain quite strict immigration rules within the EU. Not to do so was a choice by London.
yep. I’ve already commented on it, but in particular the british gutter press was always keen to blame anything and evrything on the uk – easier than the sitting govt, requires no thought and external enemy is always the best.
eu is far from perfect, but most of the uk problems are self-inflicted. but blaming it on someone else is always so much easier than accpeting there could be something wrong wit you.
The thing I found was that it wasn’t just the gutter press, I worked for a while in local government and later in a consultancy and on more than one occasion I’d be sitting in a meeting with quite senior officials saying more or less ‘we have to do this because of EU rules’ and I’d be sitting keeping quiet thinking I was an idiot that there was some Directive I hadn’t heard of. When I’d later look it up, I’d find it was completely untrue.
The irony is that in Ireland I found the complete opposite. When something good was done the response was often ‘oh, that would never had happened if it wasn’t for the EU making us do it’, when in fact it wasn’t true at all!
true, but the problem is that for a lot of these the opinions were formed by the gutter press (into which I count pretty much all dailies in the uk btw – the excpetions are mostly individual journalists rather than insetitutions)
The left wing press is just the Guardian, Observer and Mirror (and formerly the Independent, RIP), whereas the right-wing press is the Sun, Mail, Express, Telegraph and Times and they never shut up about Euroscepticism. The fear was always that centre-left govts on the continent would de-Thatcherise the UK via the EU. Now look at the eurozone fiscal rules and think again. Plus the UK voters know the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget whereas Irish ones know it’s a net beneficiary. And high emigration since the euro crisis has meant a lot of dissatisfied voters have not changed their vote or the opinions of others, because they have simply disappeared overseas instead. (15% of people 15 yrs and older born in the Republic now live overseas)
The UK is as equally fortunate, as is Australia, to be an island with a natural moat (aka wall) /sarc Otherwise, we’d be overrun by arabs, muslims and brown people. Lucky our moat’s bigger than the English channel too…
Just bedevils me. We’ve bombed the fuck out of every country in the Middle East, destroyed their capacity to live any sort of life. And, when they ask for asylum, to be classified as a refugee. Yes, we say, fuck you, there is a queue and you have skipped the queue. We don’t care about whether you are a refugee or not. You are unwelcome and deemed and economic refugee. Go fucking home.
Here, we say if you manage to get here illegally (yet there is nothing illegal in seeking assylum) our fucked up govt says you will NEVER get to be an Australian citizen. So our harboursidePM, Turnbull rings the Donald and says, ‘listen buddy, barrack said you would take our unwanted deplorables from Nauru
WTF said Donald, that wasn’t a good deal… No kidding.
This is what I hear here, from people, our pollies and the MSM.
Makes me want to get out of here… somewhere better.
The only argument I have is that refugees are supposed to claim safe haven in the first suitable country they encounter. It is hard to imagine two islands (UK and Australia) as being the first candidate that they encounter.
The current govt has to blame the eu, because, you know, during that time the home office (which controls the immigration) was run by one Theresa May
Can the politicians admit they have been lying?
This is the problem.
Plus most of the UK press barons want the UK out of the EU to tighten their grip on UK politics so have been keen to see it demonised. I reckon Murdoch has been planning this a long time.
is the concluding remark. Or in other words: We shall all serve the almighty economy. (It’s the economy, stupid).
There may well be, but an unadmitted,unplanned approach is unlikely to work well.
The mendacity of UK governments to this highly desired goal has been quite breathtaking, we’re an island with heavily monitored entry and exit processes.
The ideas (we can’t possibly know,the EU made us do it) that they justified the policy with,were always pretty unbelieveable.
Yes. It’s amusing how the whole neoliberal narrative infects everything. “When labor shortages arise, authorities can…” How about raising wages to attract people into those professions?
Another problem I have with this article is the idea that it’s so easy to expel people once they enter the country. Tbat would entail actually enforcing labor laws, which no country in this philosophically bankrupt capitalist world would actually do. So on a practical level you are left with controls at the border. Thus Brexit and Trump.
The article in fact provides two options and not a neoliberal narrative. The second part of the sentence says “or to create tensions in the labour market and cut economic growth, which would have negative feedback effects on UK public finances and taxes paid by British citizens”.
The alternative is to let tensions build up o the labor market as firms do not find enough or sufficiently skilled workers. Then wages start rising. However, the result of higher wages will be increasing retail prices and if there was a cheaper alternative from import then the firms may go bust in the end as no one will buy their more expensive product. Of course, then you may go for tariffs and closing down the borders. The result will be less innovative, more expensive products. Growth will be lower, taxes will be less and less able to finance the spending, deficit will increase and finally taxes should also go up.
Not quite sure if people writing at the BBC are reading the comments but nice timing on this article about immigration (article came one day after the comment):
When arguing that immigration is beneficial it now seems that established wisdom is no longer to point out the increased size of the economy…. Or at least for politicians wanting to be elected in a democracy where the majority has a say.
Suits Theresa May of the “go home buses”. I’m not convinced a hard Brexit is what the electorate voted for. The whole mess reeks of what Theresa May wants (I don’t agree with what the press has been saying — that she doesn’t know what she wants.)
Having returned back to the UK with my non-EU citizen wife (married 12 years, with 3 British children), I know from first hand experience how hard the British government has made it to immigrate to the UK for non-EU citizens. Despite the fact that we far exceeded any income/savings threshold, the process is effectively to arbitrarily deny, then delay, while making the whole process startingly expensive. It took us 4-5 years and required an immigration lawyer and around 8000 GBP between required courses and fees.
No-one should labour under the impression that the UK government has made it too easy for non-EU citizens to immgrate. We know several affluent families who would have been significant net contributors to the UK , as well as students who would have paid large sums to study here who have either been denied or given up.
I cannot see the wisdom is this. Immigration to the UK was certainly an issue, and needed to be tightened up, but this is not sensible.
EU immigration has been an issue because of the large income disparities in the EU, and the dire economic situation in Southern Europe, largely caused by the EU. Even in the rural part of the UK where I live, there are lots of EU immigrants, almost entirely hard working and decent people. While this is longer term likely to be a benefit to the country, you can’t deny the pressure this has put on wages. Employers no doubt love the flexibility and the increased power over their employees, but the Brexit vote was the result.
Then why is the British Isles increasingly inhabited by former colony peoples?
“The economic reasons for allowing immigration to increase from the mid-1990 prevail. When labour shortages arise, authorities can either allow foreign nationals to enter, or to create tensions in the labour market and cut economic growth, which would have negative feedback effects on UK public finances and taxes paid by British citizens.”
There is not, there never has been, nor can there ever be, a “labor shortage.”
The only reason that a worker can make more than a poverty-level wage is that, if employers advertise for workers of comparable skill for poverty-level wages, they get no takers. End of story.
Always we are told that without an abundant supply of cheap labor the world will end the crops will rot in the fields plagues of locusts the economy won’t grow etc.etc. Always we are lied to. Child labor is outlawed, slaves are freed, unions made legal, the importation of foreign labor reduced… and all that happens is that workers do well and a rich person can’t buy that second yacht this year. Oh the horror, the horror.
Lets not forget the hamdy clauses in the treaties that allow business to pay EU nationals the minimum wage in their home state. We have the highest minimum wage in the EU. Guess how much fat cat directors save by paying half our minimum wage to eastern european workers???
Also how low has UK unemployment ever been since we joined the EU?? Never less thatn a million, frequently two, three or more million. So how do we have a labour shortage?? The education system was deliberately dumbed down. Bliar wanted everyone to go to university but not to de educated to degree level because then they might start asking questions like how much are you paying those Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, czechs, etc, etc. .???
I don’t really understand why American leftists see EU as a leftist project. I was blocked from M Moores Twitter wondering if he had the foggiest idea what EU really is.
Many hopes have been glued to the EU make-believe, in the south the left believed, and still do, that EU was the vehicle to do what they couldn’t do them self to restrain right wing corruption. While the right wingers there did see the opportunity to grab more on a European scale. The Greeks probably did see it as a way to elevate its client system to an European level with Greece as client to the richer parts of Europe. Germany, Netherlands as a way to have a “protected” export zone. In Sweden, it was primarily the right wingers and employer organization that wanted to join EU as a way to do what they haven’t been able to do them self, to crush social democratic hegemony and the welfare state. Seems to be similar but opposite in Brittan EU as a vehicle to quell Tory dominance.
After decades of neoliberal economic policies that have produced slow growth and euro sclerosis and the latest almost ten years of disastrous economic policies in the Euro-zone it is totally beyond believe that anyone could see EU as a leftist project. A project where finance have been given veto power over democracy, it much more resembles 20s and 30s European fascism implemented without war.
The EU is better for the average citizen than the USA. If that is slow growth and Euro sclerosis, we need more of it. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/is-europe-outperforming-the-us/
The ECC was fine; the EU is crap. It takes time for truth to percolate, even in the global days we live in.
>I don’t really understand why American leftists see EU as a leftist project.
If it’s “European” it has to be good—ever since the days of Ben Franklin all the way to the American leftist exile in 1920-30’s Paris.
+ Cherry-picking Euro non-nationalism while ignoring the erosion of domestic sovereign control of labor laws for neoliberal/Brussels principles (see France).
“For longer periods, only workers, the very rich and students can stay in another EU country.”
That is the stumbling block, and what allows the xenophobic right to mix with the workers left against the EU project.
Because it is workers, be it industrial or service, with a family and mortgage to sustain, that feel the biggest pinch. This because year after year they have seen their jobs go to temporary or semi-permanent workers shipped in by the busload from abroad.
Effectively the EU project has been the biggest single union busting project there is.
And by paying less than the UK minimum wage to the EU workers they shipped in.
There is a statement:
“New jobseekers have a slightly more preferential treatment. Following European Court of Justice rulings, they can stay up to six (and not three) months. However, a six-month period is not that long and after six months host country authorities can ask the jobseeker to leave if she/he cannot prove to have a realistic chance of finding work there (see here).”
It seems 6 months is a reasonable time to find a new job.
The US median job search peaked at 25weeks (about 6 months) in 2010.
Doesn’t this statement actually represent that there is a fairly unrestricted source of new EU-immigrant workers to the UK?
If employers are looking for lower than prevailing wage workers, for 6 months a new immigrant prospective worker can advertise they are available to be employed in the UK.
The 82% potential reduction in immigration could then be a very suspect number, perhaps the immigration from non-EU sources simply lowered the UK wages enough to make immigration from the EU to the UK less attractive.
If the supply of non-EU immigrants had been restricted, and wages rose, the non-EU immigrants might simply have been back filled by EU workers who found employment during the 6 month trial period.
the main point is that the uk had an option to stop eu8 (orange in the graph above) for up to 7 years. it choose not to – we can discuss why etc. but it does not change the fact it was uk choice, not forced by eu (in fact, most of the eu chose to protect their labour market)
you can see the effect of that in the green bar of the graph, where eu2 was subject to these rules (and they are now largest contributors to the non eu15 immigration, as the eu2 are ver poor countries, even compared to eu8).
the graph also shows the (current) Polish plumber myth, as the eu8 immigration tappered and was overtaken by eu15 immigration – from about 2012, which means that most of those eu8 immigrants may now be eligible for the uk passport btw.
of course, the whole above is irrelevant compared to the massive light blue bar of non-eu immigrants that uk could have done something all the time.
Something not talked about much is that all current free trade agreementd include preferenstial access of labour force for those involved. Which Australia and India already said they would include in their demands. So you replace the 700m europeans with 1.25bln Indians (admittedly, this is likely to be more skilled immigration, with India alone producing the same number of graduates as the whole of eu – including uk)
Inside Schengen it’s hard to keep track of people, how long they have stayed and so on. The thing is if they apply for social benefits in the host country. In Sweden Romani beggars from primarily Romania and Bulgaria can stay as long as they like, no one is keeping track of them. Or even enforce the regulation if it’s obvious they have been here a long time.
Asylum seekers have gone down and Sweden have introduced border control. But no one is seeking asylum at the border. Despite that it’s still six times asylum seekers relative neighboring Nordic countries. Up to 90% seeking asylum as paperless inside Sweden. I.e. they travel on some sort of more or less valid documents and the inside Sweden they suddenly don’t have any papers. An idiot could understand that such a system would attract all kind of criminal elements that need to get away an get new fresh valid papers to travel on. Un till recently everybody got permanent residence papers. That those who did flee for their lives then travel back forth too their home countries is no secret.
Since 2008 500,000 Swedish passports have disappeared, that is primarily immigrants who sell them and apply for a new one. In some cases they “loose” several passports during a year. Now there have been introduced restriction, 3 passports during 5-year period.
The whole system is in total disorder.
to be realistic…if you want stricter inbound-migration, if you’re anti-Commonwealth migration, you’d be reflectively branded as a racist + xenophobe.
If you’re anti-Continental migration, you’re just a xenophobe.
Path of least resistance.
EU is a totally impotent power structure. The refuge situation in Italy and Greece becoming more and more desperate while EU does nothing. Italy now want help from Russia.
Russia urged to intervene in Libyan migrant crisis
As Lady Thatcher said:
“Europe is the result of plans. It is, in fact, a classic Utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the final damage is in doubt.”
The irony today is that the EU is far from impotent, in no small part thanks to the self-styled Iron Lady, and the trouble is most of that power really comes without accountability.
Along with fellow Conservative/arch enemy Ted Heath, nobody did more to entwine the UK into the EU than Mrs T and her ill-judged blinkered obsession with the creation of the European single market, seemingly at any cost.
Too busy celebrating her apparent personal economic triumph to notice the political ramifications of the small print sneaky (well meaning I’m sure) Eurocrats had snuck into the final treaty she cheerfully signed, and the rest, as they say, is (now regrettable) history.
Fast forward and the EU continues to serve up these ridiculous paradoxes, as this article illustrates. A soon to be sovereign ex-member blaming the EU for its own part self-inflicted politically and economically expedient immigration failings, and and sovereign states Malta, Italy and Greece berating the EU for not interfering enough on immigration control, and too much (or is it too little?) on the financial front for the latter two .
Clearly the EU represents very different, disparate things to all its members and reconciling them all is now becoming a nigh on impossible task.
“We pointed out previously that non-EU immigration accounted for more than half of total immigration since 10 countries joined the EU in 2004?”
This is true, but it is a backward looking statement. EU immigration/yr has something like tripled in last 5 years while non-EU has fallen. The trends are blindingly clear that EU immigration will grow into the lion’s share, and fast. Cross over is around now.
And while in principle they can be booted out after 6 months and no job, how do you do that in practice? The obvious way would be to issue visas to track the time… but while a member of the EU, the UK is not allowed.
So we are back to the sovereignty thing… either stay in the EU and operate in a half-assed way with one arm tied behind the back, or leave and do things properly.
EU migration has likely peaked (and would have, regardless of Brexit or not), for two reasons.
The first one is that the large part of the migration is driven by EU2 (Bulgaria and Romania), and this WILL taper off – same way as EU8 tapered and stabilised.
The second large increase in EU immigration was from EU15. Again, I believe this will taper off, because it was driven by the young unemployed Greeks/Italians/Spaniards/Portugese (and some French). There’s not a lot of those left, and demographically there is fewer of the new graduates (most likely to emigrate) – or young generally – then before.
Also, what tends to be ignored in this discussion is that there’s a significant British diaspora in the EU, most of which are retirees.
Many of those will have to return, mostly because they will not be able to afford the health insurance they will need in the EU. To an extent, there will be a self-selection for those returnin to the UK, and it will be a bad one for the UK – because the richer and healtier will stay in the EU, while the poorer and generally worse off will have to come back.
This will create extra strain on already failing-apart NHS and social services. So yes, there may be more school places, but there’s going to be much more strain on NHS – and fewer resources to deal with it (UK wasn’t able to train enough people for NHS and social services so far, why should we believe that Brexit will magically change that for the better?)
It’s extremely easy to say “Brexit means Brexit”, but the second or even third order consequences are worse than first order consequences for most of the political decisions. And I can’t see the current govt to be able to look properly even at first order ones. Say Fox was saying how he now has 200 trade negotiators. Well, that may mean he has like 20 (likely less) senior negotiators. You’d need at least two, more likely three to five on any major trade negotiation. I’d expect that US/EU negotiations would take better part of those 20 alone. So this is bare minimum – and that’s assuming that the 1 very senior to 10 more junior is really there, as opposed to say 200 absolute juniors (i.e. people who had no trade negotiation experience whatsoever, even if they might have had other experience – say law etc.).
One of the strange aspects of the referendum was that although,as Yves says, immigration was said to be a very important issue, the areas of high immigration generally voted remain. It was where immigration was relatively low that people voted to leave. There were some exceptions to this generalisation.
This suggests more was really going on. Fear of possible future migration might have been a concern of course. However, interestingly, studies suggest that it was people who felt left behind economically or culturally who voted out. Also areas that had been hit by competition from China voted out.
So perhaps EU migrants were a handy scape goat for deeper resentment at the failure to distribute the benefits of globalisation around. It certainly seems to me that there was an element of hostility towards London behind the results.