- It is clear that one of the key issues that caused so many of the UK’s citizens to vote “Leave” was that of the level of immigration into the UK, brought about by the EU’s Freedom of Movement, and it’s effect on their lives and, to some extent, their cultural identity. Just how much of the anti-immigration rhetoric was actually down solely to immigration is debatable, however.
- Austerity, a general dissatisfaction with the Government’s economic agenda, house prices, pressure on the NHS, social services etc were leading causes for concern. Immigration was often used as a proxy/scapegoat,to explain why these pressures existed (fuelled by much of the media and the Brexiteers), and not always in areas of actual high levels of immigration.
- Stratford4Europe understands these concerns over immigration but firmly believes that the solution to them is “to mend not end” immigration as Open Britain has put it. We believe that the vast majority of EU immigration, as well as non EU immigration, is not only economically beneficial but critical to the economy and the NHS.
- The Government, including our local MP, has committed to reducing immigration to “tens of thousands”. Stratford4Europe believes this not realistic nor economically justified, quite the reverse. Recent statements by Brexit ministers, as well as the Prime Minister, suggest that they are starting to realise this as evidenced by David Davis’s BBC Question Time statement that immigration “could rise as well as fall according to the then economic circumstances”.
- This aspect of immigration is especially relevant in Stratford District where the local economy in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, distribution, agriculture and public services including the NHS and the care sector, are highly reliant on EU workers.
- There are concerns from local businesses in these sectors that, if EU nationals were required to leave the UK, or chose to do so of their own volition, this could present a major problem to the local economy in that doubts exist that these local businesses would be able to recruit UK nationals to fill the vacancies created.
- S4E believes that where immigration is successfully integrated into our local communities it enriches them. These two aspects of immigration, it’s critical role in our economic success and it’s successful integration into our local communities, are the key to the challenges immigration, and the freedom of movement which the EU provides, represent.
- With regards to Freedom of Movement S4E believes that, as in the UK, there are increasing signs of similar concerns about uncontrolled immigration significantly in countries with upcoming elections and that these concerns are starting to be recognised and taken seriously by Brussels.
- In light of this S4E believes that, whilst there needs to be change within the EU with regards to Freedom of Movement, it is better to bring about this change from within especially as there is growing evidence that ever so slowly “the tide is turning” in other EU countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany. To leave the EU now risks us “throwing the baby out with the bath water” in our view!
Stratford4Europe Positioning Statement as at April 2017