Gerry Thompson (Letters, 12 May) asked whether immigration could be reduced if we leave the EU. The answer is no for a number of reasons.
EU citizens constitute only 42 per cent of non-UK nationals living in the UK. If we seriously wish to restrict immigration, the focus on EU citizens is misplaced.
Leave campaigners, including Priti Patel, are actively seeking to secure the backing of British Asians for leaving by telling them that if we quit, we could allow more immigration from outside the EU.
There are a large number of UK nationals living in the other 27 EU member states, half the number of EU nationals living in the UK. Some may remember the 1980s series Auf Wiedersehen Pet. If we leave the EU, will 1.5 million UK expats have to return to the UK? The referendum is causing considerable uncertainty for UK expats and EU citizens here alike.
Immigration can’t be seen in isolation from the package of four core EU principles (free movement of goods, services, capital and workers). Should we leave, and still want to enjoy the same beneficial access to our major export market (45 per cent of our exports go to the EU), we would still have to accept EU workers. One possible model for a UK outside the EU is Norway which has to accept free movement of EU workers but also refugees because it is, unlike us, a Schengen member. As a result, Norway has three times the portion of migrants as we do. Australia and Switzerland have similarly larger percentages.
I share readers’ concerns about identity and pressures on housing, education and health. However, if the diagnosis of our problems is wrong, so will be the cure. Scaremongering about immigration is a blatant misdiagnosis. We are not experiencing mass immigration – our percentage of migrants is a fraction of what countries like Lebanon have. The chance of Turkey joining the EU is remote as only countries which respect political freedoms and human rights can be admitted. In any case, the UK would exercise our sovereign veto.
In fact, we get a pretty good deal from EU migration. EU citizens pay 33 per cent more in UK tax than they take in benefits. Nor do we have to pay for their education nor much of their healthcare as some leave when older. If we lose EU citizens’ contribution to our economy, who will pay the shortfall in our pensions? Who will do the jobs that some of us will not do? Who will look after our ageing population (6 per cent of our NHS is staffed by EU citizens)? Who will pick the produce in our fields? Studies show only the slightest evidence that EU citizens take jobs from UK nationals.
Pressures on housing, education and healthcare existed before we joined the EU. Growth in the South East means we have attracted considerable migration from elsewhere in the UK. Successive Westminster governments have failed to spend and invest in public services, a trend exacerbated by the austerity resulting from the recent global financial crisis. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive NHS England, said if the Bank of England’s warnings of Brexit’s negative economic impact is right, the NHS would suffer. The EU, which accounts for only a third of one per cent of the tax we pay, with its macro-economic benefits of attracting foreign investment and creating jobs, and its taxpaying citizens, can hardly be blamed.
If we vote to leave the EU, we shall not ‘control’ immigration any better than we do now. In fact, we risk being worse off.
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