Immigration has been good for the UK. People coming here from other parts of the world have used their skills and labour to build successful businesses, create jobs and keep our public services going, and freedom of movement has made us all better off.
But the benefits of immigration are not just economic; they are social and cultural as well. They exist not just in the millions of people who have found love and friendship, and started families, as a direct result of crossing borders, or in the millions more who would not have been born at all without immigration into the UK. They can be found, too, in contemporary British culture, art, music, sport, food – the things that make life worth living. All of these have been influenced and transformed for the better by people who have come to the UK from overseas and made their lives here.
In addition millions of us have benefited from our right to the free movement of persons, from the ease of travelling around the continent that we all enjoy to the right to live and work in mainland Europe – currently exercised by 1.3 million Brits, the fifth largest of any country in Europe. As Rafael Behr put it, ending free movement ‘limits the freedoms and opportunities attached to possession of a UK passport’.
Free Movement has been good for Britain and good for Britons.
Not everyone agrees. There are many reasons for the UK’s vote in 2016 to leave the European Union, but there is a broad consensus that concern over the level of immigration to the UK, especially from Eastern Europe was a significant factor. This leaves a dilemma at the heart of immigration policy. The most popular policy options – at least on the face of it – would be harmful to the UK and the people who live here. And the economic and other consequences of these popular policy options might well be rather unpopular. Faced with this dilemma, the Government has chosen to risk the economic harm of ending freedom of movement rather than what it sees as the political harm of retaining it in the face of public opposition.
This won’t just damage our economy and public services reliant on migrant workers such as social care. It also makes it more difficult for the UK to get a Brexit deal that preserves the other benefits of single market membership. That’s not what the public want. In Global Future’s April 2018 report
If Theresa May Wants To Deliver Brexit, Accepting Free Movement Could Be Her Only Route
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