What is the truth of freedom of movement?

Whilst it is often stated that Freedom of Movement is a non-negotiable and a fundamental indivisible principle of the Single Market, the truth is actually far more complex.  The ‘four freedoms’ are not indivisible for countries outside the EU, such as those who are members of the European Economic Area, (EEA).

Furthermore, the EU has made provision in legally binding and proposed agreements unilaterally to control freedom of movement along with the other freedoms of the Single Market.  The UK could do the same if it remained a member of the Single Market (and wider European Economic Area, EEA) by re-joining The European Free Trade Association (EFTA).  The same actually applies to the EU’s proposed draft text to the Withdrawal Agreement.  Thus Mrs May and her government are, at least in this regard, determined to pursue a Brexit strategy (Brexit in name only) which is far worse than what is actually available utilizing existing established agreements.

The EEA Agreement governs the Single Market (and wider EEA)

The operation of the Single Market (and wider EEA) is set by the EEA Agreement, to which all Member States of the EU and EFTA (excluding Switzerland) are signatories. For the EFTA/EEA members, the EEA Agreement is amended by the addition of Annexes and Protocols.  Thus the EFTA countries have bespoke variations on the basic EEA Agreement. EFTA countries also have greater flexibility since powers retained by individual EFTA countries have often been removed from the individual Member States of the EU and transferred to the European Commission or its agencies (acting for the whole EU).  Consequently EU Member States often find they cannot act unilaterally, whilst individual EFTA countries can do so and they make use of this freedom to serve their interests.

Within the EEA Agreement Freedom of Movement is Unilaterally Controllable

The Single Market (and wider EEA), has free movement of goods, persons, services and capital as basic principles. However, the EEA Agreement also includes an opt-out which can be applied unilaterally by EFTA countries (see Chapter 4, Safeguard Provisions, Article 112), but obviously not by Members States of the EU.  It states:

Safeguard Provisions, Article 112

  1. If serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising, a Contracting Party may unilaterally take appropriate measures under the conditions and procedures laid down in Article 113.
  2. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Agreement.
  3. The safeguard measures shall apply with regard to all Contracting Parties.

This opt-out is intended to be “temporary” (until a permanent solution is implemented), but nevertheless can be invoked and maintained in the absence of that permanent solution.  It has already been used by Liechtenstein to control immigration and Iceland to control capital flows in the wake of the financial crisis.

The EU’s Ability to Unilaterally Control Freedom of Movement

So useful and/or essential does the EU regard Articles 112 and 114 of the EEA Agreement that, rather than them being toothless window-dressing, it chose to include them virtually unchanged in its draft Withdrawal Agreement, Article 13 (Protocols NI) which states:

Article 13 Safeguards

  1. If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties liable to persist, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.
  2. If a safeguard measure taken by the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, in accordance with paragraph 1 creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Protocol, the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.

The EU is intentionally ensuring, whether the UK is in the EEA or not, that the EU can unilaterally restrict immigration into the remaining Member States from the UK. The EU is also agreeing here that the UK can unilaterally restrict immigration from the remaining Member States into the UK.

Implementing the Safeguard Measures Immediately

In the UK, there are permanent economic, infrastructural and societal factors which would justify implementing the existing Safeguard Measures immediately, as of 29th March 2019, when we supposedly leave the EU whilst de facto remaining within the Single Market.  Subsequently it would be prudent to negotiate the introduction of specific clauses to enshrine a right to permanent or longer term control.

Why the untruths about Free Movement?

The kindest explanation as to why Freedom of Movement is misrepresented is that many politicians are actually being economical with the truth, and are avoiding the fuller picture which contradicts their claims.  They may also fail to understand the subtleties of that fuller picture.   This is somewhat obvious in Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech 17th January 2017 where she appears to have accepted some very disingenuous claims about free movement. Here are her words:

But I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market.

European leaders have said many times that membership means accepting the ‘4 freedoms’ of goods, capital, services and people. And being out of the EU but a member of the single market would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country.

Mrs May also appears to fail to understand how the EU and EEA works, including the subordination of the European Court of Justice. These are explained in more detail here with links to further information.

The great tragedy of missed opportunity

This country desperately needs the powers to choose who we should let in and under what circumstances. This was one of the loudest great messages from the Brexit Referendum result. Voters want us to be able to control our borders. To repeat, that power of control is there in legal texts. It could have been grasped by Mrs May and her colleagues in government if they had chosen to do so.   They have chosen – at least up to now – instead a path of uncertainty, cave-ins to the EU and potential chaos.  It is a price the British people should not have to bear.

Good riddance to Rudd. Now for Robbins!

The departure of Amber Rudd from Mrs May’s cabinet will not cause any tears to be shed among Brexit supporters. Her brother, Roland Rudd, was  chairman of the europhile Business for New Europe and she campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum. Although publicly committed to supporting Theresa May’s commitment to leave the EU,  in a meeting with journalists last week, she appeared to be ambivalent about the Customs Union although she later stated that she supported the government’s policy.  Leaked papers also suggested that she supported unrestricted access for skilled EU27 migrants to the UK after Brexit, ignoring the wishes of many leave voters who wanted to leave the EU precisely so immigration could be drastically reduced.

He successor, Sajid Javid, is believed by those in the know to have voted remain only out of loyalty to David Cameron and George Osborne, especially as a few months before the vote he said his “heart” was for Brexit. After the result, he said: “We’re all Brexiteers now” and has been unequivocal in his support of leaving the EU ever since.  He cannot but be an improvement on Amber Rudd.

Robbins next!

This website has rarely had a good word for David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, in recent months, but we fully support his call for Theresa May to sack her Brexit advisor, Olly Robbins.  Davis feels he is being sidelined by Robbins, a civil servant  and a notorious europhile. Davis’ calls were met with indignation from a number of quarters. A fellow-senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Haywood, indignantly tweeted that “The Civil Service will always be true to its values – honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.” Is this fair, however? Since the departure of Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s special advisor who, for all his bungling of last year’s General Election, was at least a convinced leaver, the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy has gone from bad to worse, especially since Robbins has become her EU advisor. Furthermore, there is nothing “honest” about advocating any sort of customs union.  As we have pointed out umpteen times, it does not solve any trade-related problems.  The bleating of remoaner MPs that the referendum said nothing about leaving the customs union is irelevant – no one said anything about it because staying in it is such a daft idea that it was not worthy of discussion. I took part in over 20 debates and rallies and not once did the subject come up.

With local elections coming up this Thursday, if the Conservatives perform badly – as they could well do, particularly in London –  a scapegoat will be required by MPs.  The Tories picked up a lot of votes at last  year’s General Election because of Mrs May’s promises on Brexit. Although in theory, Brexit is irrelevant as far as local elections are concerned, in practice, people often use local elections to protest about national issues and the inept handling of Brexit is likely to top the list of reason for dissatisfaction with the Tories.  There could therefore be no better head to roll than that of Mr Robbins.

Photo by DECCgovuk

EU Immigration – False figures make for false policy

This article can also be downloaded as a pdf here.

The survey of voting motivation in the EU Referendum of 2016 carried out by Lord Ashcroft on 24th June 2016, showed that the principal motivation of 62% of Leave voters was the return of democracy to the UK, ‘The principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’, or about ‘How the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead’.

An important number (33% of Leavers) voted primarily for leaving as it ‘… offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders’.  Only 6% said their main motivation was that ‘When it comes to trade and the economy, the UK would benefit more from being outside the EU than from being part of it’.

It is fair to say that trade and economy issues have dominated politics since the referendum although this was a minor motivation for Leave voters.

The sheer magnitude and impact of migration from the EU27 to the UK has not been understood by the British political and media class, who have regarded those who were concerned by the impact as ignorant and racist.

In fact, the EU27 migration to the UK has a 50 times greater impact on the UK labour market and wages than the migration of British nationals to the EU27 has on the EU27.


‘Rights’ of Migrants

While control of migration has frequently been emphasized by the current Prime Minister, the actual negotiations between the EU and the UK on migration have revolved around ‘rights’.

The Joint Report from the Negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom government in December 2017 emphasised this when it recorded:

“Both parties have reached agreement in principle … on protecting the rights of Union citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the Union”

The Labour Market

While the matter of citizens’ ‘rights’ affects all UK citizens living in the UE27, and vice-versa, whether working or not, the labour market effects are quite different.

The arrival of non-working pensioners in a country means that the labour supply is not affected and, indeed, extra demand is likely to pull up wage rates.

Despite the fact that the UK labour force is just under 15.6% of the EU27, total worker migration between the UK and the EU is heavily skewed so that worker migration is many times greater from the EU into the UK than vice-versa.

When the total size of the workforce is considered (the EU27 being 211 million and the UK 33 million) this skewed migration becomes overwhelmingly one-sided with EU27 migration having some 50 times the impact on the labour force and the UK economy than UK migration has on the EU27 labour force and economy.

What were voters concerned about

Best calculations (and all subsequent figures are only best estimates) show that about 320,000 UK nationals work in the EU27 which has a labour force of 211 million, therefore, adding 0.15% to the EU27 labour supply.  Simultaneously, 2.3 million EU27 workers work in the UK which had a previous workforce of 30.8 million, adding 7.46% to the UK labour force, an impact about 50 times as great.

It is hardly surprising that the motivation to leave the EU, defined as ‘To regain control over immigration and its own borders’ was so widespread while, at the same time, the EU leaders, not facing in general (although some EU labour markets had sizeable immigration) the same scale of migration, simply continued to make a red line out of freedom of movement.

What is baffling is why UK politicians did not seem to understand the different scale of migration into the UK and into the EU27 and through their pre-occupation with ‘rights’ they seemed not to understand the arithmetic.

It should be noted that EU free movement rules are based on citizenship and residence, not where you were born.

Why did the politicians (British and EU) emphasize ‘rights’?

The one-sided relative level of migration (50-1) has been masked for a long time by the issuance of false totals on UK nationals living in the EU.  These have been reported on numerous occasions by the UK government and the media.

These gross errors can be traced back to a report by the IPPR think-tank in 2010 (entitled ‘Global Brit’) based on an earlier report in 2008.  In 2008 the IPPR estimated that 1.8 million UK nationals were living in the other EU countries (2.2 million for part of the year).  This wildly inaccurate estimate was recycled in a House of Lords’ answer by Baroness Warsi on 4th February 2014, who admitted her figures (for 2010) from the Foreign Office were compiled by the IPPR.

Nevertheless, the theme of 2 million UK nationals living in the EU27 continued.  It was quoted by Dominic Grieve in March 2015 and it reappeared from the depths in HM government’s paper of February 2016, ‘The process for withdrawing from the European Union’, “This [negotiation] would include the status and entitlements of the approximately 2 million UK citizens living, working and [bizarre] travelling in the other 27 member states of the EU.”

Meanwhile some journalistic sources muddied matters further by reducing the number of EU27 citizens in the UK.  For one example, on 10th February 2014 euobserver.com stated, “British figures indicate that just as many UK citizens live in the EU as vice-versa, despite popular perceptions”.  Lord Oakeshott’s contribution in The Times, 10th February 2014 was “scaremongering … could poison the atmosphere for 2 million of our fellow countrymen in the rest of Europe [sic]”.

However, a page was turned on 11th January 2018 when the House of Commons issued new figures for migration between the EU and the UK which quoted Office for National Statistics estimates for 2011 which concluded that there were only 890,000 British nationals living in other EU countries in 2011.  80% were in five countries: Spain (309,000), France (157,000), Ireland (112,000), Germany (96,000) and Netherlands (41,000).

In other words, the UK government had been employing and propagating figures for UK nationals living in the EU 27 which were of the order of a 125% plus error.

This error inevitably had an impact on the Brexit negotiations and the lack of UK response to EU pressure to maintain migrant rights.  It also explains the relative insouciance with which British politicians approached the immigration issue.  This was in part based on the comforting, but absurdly wrong, notion that UK nationals were working in the EU27 on the same scale as EU27 nationals were working in the UK.  Not only were the absolute totals of UK migrants wrong but the relative totals of EU27 and UK migrants to each other were of a completely different scale.

It should be noted that the IPPR has withdrawn the figures in its 2008 and 2010 reports.


On looking at Baroness Warsi’s reply to Lord Oakeshott on 4th February 2014 (where the IPPR role is clearly set out) which estimated the figure of UK citizens living in other EU countries at 2.2 million, there was also supplied to Lord Oakeshott the number of UK citizens claiming a UK pension within the 2.2 million.  These were listed country by country and totalled 395,450.  Baroness Warsi stated that this did not include UK citizens not drawing a UK pension, for example, certain categories of widows, persons who worked entirely abroad, etc. [omitted from the following calculations]  and also, vice-versa, persons drawing a UK pension, but not of British nationality, would be included [also omitted from the following calculations].

The estimate for UK pensioners, according to Baroness Warsi, was based on information available from UK government sources.  Presumably the UK government is readily able to count how many pensions are paid to British pensioners to each EU27 country.  These were reasonably hard figures compared with the IPPR’s estimates.

EU Citizens in the UK

The House of Commons’ study (based on the ONS statistics) stated that “the available data suggests” there were around 3.6 million EU27 nationals living in the UK in 2016.  It also quotes the ONS figures for employment, that around 2.3 million EU27 nationals are in work (64% of total).

From the figures quoted elsewhere in this study it can be seen that the economically active percentage rate of the total population in the EU is 47%.  Bearing in mind that the pensioner population (defined as those over 65) in the EU is around 19% of the total population, and few pensioners retire from the EU27 to the UK (UK government figures show about 100,000 EU27 citizens in the UK receive EU27 pensions), these figures seem coherent.

It should be noted that not all EU27 nationals come to work, some are students, some, of course, are married women and children, some are spouses of UK citizens.  Some of these join the workforce.

The calculations on the impact of migration on the Labour Market

Eurostat’s estimate is that the populations of the EU in 2016 was 510 million and the labour force (including unemployed) was 245 million (47% of population).  For the UK the population (ONS for 2014) was 65.5 million and the labour force 33 million.

The EU27 totals are, therefore, EU totals minus UK totals which amounts to EU27 population 445 million, labour force 212 million.

The pensioner (over 65) population in the EU27 and the UK was almost the same level – at 19%.

According to the UK government approximately 100,000 EU citizens in the UK receive EU27 pensions.

 The situation of EU27 citizens in the UK is as follows:

3.6 million EU27 nationals living in the UK (ONS, House of Commons)

2.3 million are workers, 64% of total and 7.46% of the UK labour force, which is 30.8 million (2017) exclusive of EU27 workers.

The 100,000 EU27 pensioners have been omitted since the number of EU non-pensioners has risen by more than 100,000 in the last year.

 The situation of British citizens in the EU27 is as follows:

ONS, House of Commons’ total (2011)                                                            890,000

Pensioners per Baroness Warsi’s country-by-country breakdown            395,450

Workers, dependants, etc.                                                                                   494,550

[Assumed 64% of these are workers, as with EU27 workers (excluding Pensioners) in the UK]

Therefore, British nationals working (primary purpose)                             316,000

Rounded up to                                                                                                      320,000

This totals 0.15% of the EU27 labour force which is 212 million.

As with EU27 citizens in the UK, not all UK nationals go to the EU27 to work.  Some are students, some are dependants.  Some of these join the EU27 workforce.

The comparatives, therefore, when considering the labour market impact on the UK and EU27 labour force, are that 7.46% is approximately 50 times greater than 0.15%.


The relevant rate of migration of workers between the EU27 and the UK has a different impact on the two entities, namely 7.94% of the UK workforce and 0.15% of the EU27 workforce.

In order to understand the difference in impact, it is worth estimating:

  • What the EU27 migrant worker total in the UK would be if it was the same size relatively as the UK migrant workforce in the EU27.

        The calculation is 0.15% x 30.8 million = 46,250 instead of 2.3 million

  •  What the UK migrant worker total in the EU27 would be if it was the same size relatively as the EU27 migrant force in the UK.

 The calculation is 7.46% x 212 million = 15.81 million or approximately half the UK labour force

In other words, it is necessary for the EU27 and British politicians and business and workers and electorate to understand that the UK position on restricting migration is conditioned by an impact of the same magnitude as if 15.81 million British workers arrived to work in the EU27.

At present there is no sign that most British or EU leaders appreciate the size of the issue.  What is more tragic is that British politicians have continually issued false figures and played down the magnitude.  There is a lot of talk about ‘rights’ but none about the real impact on wages and constant political bewilderment about poor wage rates and inequality.

Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield is Director of the Futurus Think Tank

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Awaiting the storm (or explosion!)

It cannot be much longer before the penny finally drops regarding the terms being proposed by the EU for the UK’s 21-month “transitional arrangement.”

Businessmen like John Mills and John Longworth, both of whom met Michel Barnier in Brussels last week, are distinctly unimpressed with what we are likely to be offered, but it is surprising that there haven’t already been even louder cries of outrage from the Conservative back benches. Last November, at a meeting organised by Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman, Rt Hon David Jones MP was quite unequivocal that any further involvement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the legal affairs of the UK after Brexit would be an “absolute red line” for himself and a number of his colleagues, who would rather leave with no deal.

As more details emerge, it is becoming clear that it’s not just a role for the ECJ in our affairs which the EU wishes to incorporate into the transitional deal. According to an article in The Times, the EU will insist on the free movement of people throughout the period and the inclusion of people moving to the UK before 31st December 2020 in any post-Brexit agreement on citizens’ rights.. This again is a slap in the face for leave voters. It’s not just that many of us voted leave because we want to see a drastic cut in immigration; more to the point, we voted leave because we wanted our institutions to be sovereign – and this means that the EU must have no say in determining who can or cannot come into the UK or how long they can stay.

This tougher stance is contained in a new document dated 15th January. It is not the final word on the EU’s position, which will not be published until the end of the month, but it certainly gives us an idea of the general direction of travel. The guidelines produced last year by the European Parliament, although essentially a consultative document, were bad enough. We would be, in effect, a colony of the EU, unable to sign any trade agreements with other countries and still subject to the Common Fisheries and Common Agricultural policies. This document was bad enough, but according to Bloomberg, the latest document also states that we would need to seek the EU’s permission even to start negotiations on trade deals with third parties. We would be unable to strike out on our own path. The net “divorce bill” may also be increased.

Perhaps ironically, the Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament that “our hearts are still open “that the UK might “have a change of heart” and stay within the EU. This suggests a warmth towards us which just is not reflected in the negotiating guidelines which seem designed to squeeze and humiliate us as much as possible. Chancellor Philip Hammond claimed recently that the EU is “paranoid” that other countries will follow us out of the door. It has also been claimed that the EU is pressurising Switzerland not to make a bilateral deal with the UK The EU’s tough stance may well all be technically justifiable from the treaties, but it clearly wishes to interpret them in the toughest way possible as far as Brexit is concerned. No one with any sense of self-respect should give in to this bullying.

The transitional deal must therefore be kicked into the long grass as soon as possible, especially as there is no guarantee that a new trade deal will be ready to replace it after 21 months. The EU’s ambassadors have signalled a willingness for the transitional period to be extended, but this would only prolong an unsatisfactory situation which is not Brexit in any real sense of the term.

A further complication is looming on the horizon. The Norwegians have indicated that they would seek to renegotiate their trading arrangements with the EU if we were given favourable access to the EU’s single market  while not being a member of it.  This, of course, refers to any long-term deal and therefore is not an issue for Mrs May at the moment as the EU has insisted that negotiations on a long-term trading arrangement cannot start yet.  Let’s face it, she has enough on her plate as her team prepares to negotiate the transitional arrangements. We must hope that there is already a storm brewing up on the Conservative back benches which will rapidly knock these unacceptable proposals on the head and force the government to take a different approach.

If not, the storm is likely to strike with far greater ferocity  in four years’ time. A botched Brexit where we leave in name only is not what we voted for and not what Mrs May promised us when she became leader.   Brexit must mean Brexit or our Prime Minister will not only find herself consigned to a “rogues gallery”, excoriated by posterity alongside the likes of Lord North, Neville Chamberlain, Heath, Blair and Brown, but she may well take her party down with her.

For those who DON’T want a break from Brexit……

Maybe you are longing for Christmas, especially given the Parliamentary recess will at least give s a week’s break for Christmas. If so, there’s no need to read any further…..

On the other hand, you may find this article of interest. Whatever the turmoil of our Brexit negotiations, our country has risen from fifth to first ranking in the Forbes list of the best countries in which to do business.  This is the first time we have ever taken the top spot and the competition is fierce – several Anglophone nations, Scandinavia, Hong Kong Singapore and Switzerland  would have given us a good run for our money.

On a very different note, Open Europe has published a report entitled Beyond the Westminster Bubble – what people really think of immigration. It’s quite long- 74 pages in total, but it well illustrates the strength of feeling that exists among the UK population for a cut in migration, even though there isn’t much confidence in the Government’s ability to meet its target to reduce numbers to “tens of thousands”.

Open Europe may not be the moist popular think tank among Brexit supporters, but it does produce some very useful research and this paper is well worth reading.



Immigration: Concerns on both sides of the Channel

At a time when positive news on the Brexit front seems to be in short supply, the latest immigration figures, which were published last week have brought some welcome cheer. Long term net migration fell by 106,000 to 230,000 in the year following the vote to leave the EU – the biggest drop since records began in 1964. The number of arrivals in the UK fell by 80,000 and the number of departures rose by 26,000. Even so, this welcome fall still leaves the Government a long way short of its target to bring down net migration below 100,000.

Naturally, not everyone is happy. Jonathan Portes, a senior fellow at The U.K. in a Changing Europe, said the statistics show the country is “less attractive” to migrants from Europe. “Whatever your views on the impact of immigration, it cannot be good news that the U.K. is a less attractive place to live and work, and that we will be poorer as a result,” he said.

Conversely, Lord Green of MigrationWatch gave the figures a cautious welcome. “This is a significant and very welcome reduction in net migration – especially by EU citizens who do not have a job to come to,” he said. “It points to what could be achieved once the UK regains full control over migration. Meanwhile, employers who raise cries of alarm should be reminded that we still have a net inflow of over a hundred thousand from the EU, plus 170,000 from outside the EU and last week’s figures saw a new record of 2.4 million for the number of EU workers in the UK.”

This is the bottom line. Our country is full up. Unless things change quickly, to quote the MigrationWatch website, “A new home will need to be built every five minutes over the next 25 years just to house future migrants and their families.” There is no doubt that some people are making themselves very wealthy by running businesses which rely on migrant labour and there is no doubt too that a sudden and complete stop in immigration would cause problems in some sectors, but there are many reasons to be concerned about mass migration, which are nothing to do with being “racist”. In this excellent piece, Kathy Gyngell pulls no punches:-

There’s a reason why our roads are blocked with traffic, why there’s a housing shortage, why there are not enough school places, why the NHS is creaking at the seams. It’s called population growth, something that the political class choose to ignore, let alone see the need to be planned for….Driven by record migration levels, our population has seen is sharpest growth ever. Britain has experienced a population increase of over 5 million in a just over a decade, from 2005 to 2016.”

So what has been our politicians’ reaction? “Both the Conservative and Labour parties appear to be in some sort of denial, their heads firmly stuck in the sand. Dare to ask the unmentionable – whether the country can possibly cope with these numbers without irrevocably and irreparably changing – and you are silenced, cast as racist or fascist.” That such words should be written a year after the referendum is a tragic indictment of our elected representatives. True, the main reason we voted to leave was to regain our sovereignty, but concerns about immigration loomed large. One must not interpret Dan Hannan’s comments about the negative effects of last year’s “Breaking Point ” poster to imply that its emphasis on immigration was a turn-off right across the board. What he is saying is that its style was too crude to win round undecided voters. There were plenty of people who had already decided to vote to leave the EU because of the immigration issue so  the poster was merely preaching to the converted.

Opponents of Brexit claim that anyone hoping for a cut in net migration is going to be disappointed. Thankfully, they have already been proved wrong, although it is too early to be confident that the recent figures represent a long-term trend,

Meanwhile, it’s not just the UK which is experiencing “migration fatigue”. Even the famously tolerant Dutch are getting fed up. The decision to relocate the European Medicines Agency from London to Amsterdam on Brexit has not been universally welcomed in the Netherlands’ most popular tourist destination. “Expats go home and leave the City to us, ” said Danielle van Diemen, a 5th-generation Amsterdammer.  “I am like a visitor in my own neighbourhood,” said Bert Nap, who lives near the centre. “We have lost all our bakers and other shops to tourism-orientated shops,” he added. Like London, Amsterdam is experiencing a housing shortage and it’s not the predilection of the indigenous Dutch for large families which is causing the problem.

However, it’s not only UK politicians who are  refusing to admit that there is a problem. The European continent “will clearly need immigration in the coming decades,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, a few days ago.

It won’t just be the UK and Amsterdam where words like this will go down like a lead balloon. Take Hungary for instance. The big problem of illicit migration has been contained by the erection of a border fence complete with surveillance equipment – and the measures are widely popular with voters. The Hungarian government is currently planning further to toughen the border defences and cares not one iota about the condemnation it has faced from certain quarters, including some  Western European politicians, who have accused the Hungarians and some other Eastern European countries of “retreating from European Values”.

Eastern Europeans, on the contrary, would claim to be defending and preserving European values. They  look at what has happened in the Western part of the Continent and shudder. In Poland,  less than 10 percent of respondents disagree with the statement that “all immigration from majority Muslim nations should be stopped.” Mariusz Blaszczak, the Polish interior minister said, “The security of Poland and the Poles is at risk” by taking in migrants.  “We mustn’t forget the terror attacks that have taken place in Western Europe, and how — in the bigger EU countries — these are unfortunately now a fact of life.” In the Czech Republic, former president Vaclav Klaus said, “We refuse to permit the transformation of our country into a multicultural society . . . as we currently see in France and in Great Britain.”

There are many in the UK who read Mr Klaus’ words with a sense of shame. Many of us never wanted multiculturalism and even if we would never abuse individual immigrants,  it is by no means racist to be concerned about the threat to our countryside posed by the growing population, nor to point out that more monocultural societies like Japan and South Korea are also the most stable and much less plagued by violent crime.  In Japan, opposition to mass immigration remains solid, in spite of the falling birthrate.

Furthermore, the economic arguments in favour of mass immigration are wearing thinner and thinner. The advances in robotics are likely to see as many as 11 million UK jobs automated by 2036. True, we are currently short of skilled medical staff, but sensible education policies ought to be able to address this in a decade of so.  In spite of the repeated mantra that large-scale immigration is a good thing, the likes of Mr Portes  are failing to grasp the point that the referendum was something of a turning point in this debate. Not only are there a sizeable number of people who have never accepted that the benefits of immigration outweigh the problems but they are now increasingly less afraid to say so and challenge the prevailing wisdom – and are doing so in the knowledge that such sentiments are being increasingly voiced in other countries too. The sentiments in Eastern Europe summarised above, Donald Trump’s proposed US-Mexican border  and the success of anti-immigration parties in Germany and Austria are all signs that this issue can’t be swept under the carpet any more.

Photo by marklyon