Summary: Jeremy Corbyn has clearly stated on a number of occasions that he agrees with Leave campaigners that the unlimited free movement of EU citizens to the UK must be curtailed. It is not widely known that the rules that define the permitted extent of Freedom of Movement within the European Union allow very much more control than the UK currently exercises. Working EU citizens are allowed in but non-economically active EU citizens can only stay longer than three months if they have sufficient finance and take out a comprehensive sickness insurance policy. Benefit/welfare tourism is illegal and EU citizens who have not been working have no rights to benefits. Theresa May was Home Secretary from 2010 yet she did nothing even though it was in her power simply to implement the rules as drawn up when the UK joined the European Union. This is an extraordinary example of massive and shameful negligence by Theresa May and provided much of the momentum leading to the success of the Leave campaign.
There is no reason why the Labour Party should not simply accept the full potential restrictions there are on EU migration. By doing so many of the soundbite objections to free movement used by the right-wing media and many of the Leave supporters could be re-spun as Labour Party policy. Such an approach would show Labour in a positive light about immigration as well as being entirely compatible with the existing memberships that the UK has of the EU.
One of the key promises of David Cameron’s government was to reduce immigration to a level of tens of thousands. The implementation of immigration policy was the responsibility of Theresa May, the Home Secretary from 2010 until she became Prime Minister in the middle of 2016. Around half the net migration into the UK was from countries outside the EU and therefore potentially controllable by the Home Office. The other half comes from the EU and politicians of all shades in the UK have accepted that the unrestricted freedom of movement (FoM) of people from the EU at any time was part of being a member of the European Union. There is presently no attempt to track people coming into the UK with an EU passport or indeed to track them when they leave the UK. Estimates of EU migration are indeed estimates as accurate figures do not exist. In a comment by Colin Gordon in a piece on the leftfootforward.org website by Ian Dunt it is pointed out that, incredibly, the above understanding of EU citizens rights under the FoM provisions are being seriously misrepresented by politicians from all sides and in particular from those of the Leave campaign. This is detailed in: http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9. A more detailed piece by Prof.Brad K. Blitz may be found at: http://bit.ly/1DG3I4I. For those who really have a lot of time on your hands, the regulations covering free movement of workers within the European Union can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/zl5rw4s (the website of the European Parliament).
What are these rules in reality? Freedom for a citizen of another EU member state to move to the UK applies to (taken from http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9):
- Economically active EU-citizens (i.e. working)
• Plus their families if EU-citizens
• Non-economically active EU-citizens for up to 3-months
in addition, non-economically active (not working) EU-citizens can stay longer than 3-months provided:
• They can show they have sufficient finance
• They take out a comprehensive sickness insurance policy
Freedom of Movement does not apply to:
• Non-economically active EU-citizens without funds
• Non-economically active EU-citizens without sickness insurance
• EU-citizens who have no realistic chance of working
• Family members of an EU citizen who is not an EU Citizen may reside in the UK but does not have an automatic right to work
• EU-citizens working in the UK acquire rights to benefits after working for a period
• EU-citizens not working do not have rights to Benefits.
In addition, the UK has the right to restrict FoM through:
• Suspension of the FoM for up to 7 years from when a new member country joins by preventing/prohibiting movement or the UK can insist upon work permits for each migrant
• Benefit/Welfare “tourism” is illegal
No-one has been prosecuted to-date under these regulations as the UK is not tracking movement of EU citizens in and out of the UK.
The piece on: http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9 also summarises research showing the current levels of benefit tourism (essentially undetectable) and also points out that research clearly demonstrates that migrants do not appear to reduce wages and do not appear to take jobs from the UK natives. Because migrants from the EU are young and healthy and keen to work, the HMRC said that in the year 2013/2014 recently arrived EEA nationals paid £3.1 billion in income tax and took out £0.56 billion in HMRC benefits.
The fact that the British government has completely failed to implement the controls outlined above which already exist and do not require any changes in European Union legislation is utterly shameful. This negligence has contributed very substantially to the pressure that led to the success of the Leave campaign. The fact that Labour and the other political parties have also been unaware of these facts and, if they were, certainly not been prepared to talk about them is further evidence that the political system in the UK is so much poorer than the British public must have.