Can Free Movement of Workers be Stopped?

Can Free Movement of Workers be Stopped?


I am going to talk today about free movement
of people in the European Union. You probably know it’s become a toxic issue but you have
probably taken advantage of your EU rights to free movement; you’ve been on holiday no
doubt to France or Germany, Italy, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of free movement, you’ve
enjoyed the benefits of Ryan Air and Easy Jet, and all of this has come about as a result
of EU Law. And yet, free movement of workers has become an absolutely toxic issue in this
country, and the question is, why? Well, the Treaty of Rome, the foundation of the European
Union, made clear that there would be rights of free movement for workers, for the self-employed
and also for service providers and recipients and when you went on holiday, you would have
gone either as a service recipient under the treaty or possibly under the more recent provisions
on free movement of citizens. However, the real crutch has come over the
free movement of workers and this is because in 2004 ten new member states joined the European
Union, eight of them were former Eastern European states where the level of wages was significantly
lower than those in the Western European states. Now, when they acceded to the European Union,
there were treaties and those treaties had transitional provisions in them for states
who wanted to take advantage of them, and most states, most notably Germany, Austria,
did take advantage of those transitional provisions and they had seven years before the rights
of free movement of workers took effect. The UK decided not to take advantage of those
transitional measures and so the combination of the fact that there were no transitional
arrangements, there was a worker registration scheme but that was fairly light touch, and
the fact that English has become a universal language meant that very large numbers of
migrant workers came from those EU eight states to come to look for work in the United Kingdom,
as they were entitled to under European Union Law. Now, the then government, which was a Labour
government, thought that numbers coming would be small and they were proved to be totally
wrong; about a million people turned up, many, many more people than were expected. Now,
if you remember at the time, the economy was booming and therefore many of them could be
integrated into the labour market and they took up jobs in all sorts of things, but they
were doing very important work in the UK in sectors where British employers were finding
it hard to get people; most notably: meat processing, other types of food processing,
the care sector, other types of agricultural work. So these people came and they were integrated
but of course, once the crisis hit and unemployment rose then inevitably the focus became on migrants
and the perception that migrants are taking our jobs. Now, I don’t want to engage in the rights
and wrongs of that particular claim. There is a lot of economic analysis that shows that
actually there is really very little correlation between migrants doing work and unemployment
levels in certain parts of the UK. I want to focus on the legal issues, because the
Conservatives are desperately trying to somehow limit the number of workers coming from other
EU states to the UK. As a case in point, you have, this is the front page of the Sunday
Times from last week, so the 19th of October, and as you can see, it says, “PM threatens
quotas for EU workers”, and this is just one of a number of kite flying measures that the
government has put out to try to work out what it can do. This is the legal issue: the
legal issue is that Article 45 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union makes
clear that there is a right of free movement of workers and, once they are here, these
workers must not be discriminated against on the grounds of their nationality. There
are exceptions to those rules but those exceptions are extremely limited and, most importantly,
the exceptions can’t be invoked on the grounds of economic migration. We want to use the
so-called public policy exception to keep foreign workers out because they are upsetting
the balance on our labour market. I should say that these roles on free movement have
been invoked by David Cameron himself when the Spanish were trying to interfere with
free movement in coming into and out of Gibraltar and David Cameron went straight to the commission
and said it’s not fair, the Spanish are interfering with the rights of free movement of workers
under Article 45. Nevertheless, he’s now in a position to say
I want to restrict free movement of workers, particularly workers coming from Eastern European
States. Well, the bottom line is he can do nothing whatsoever under the current treaty
arrangements, and so the question is, what can he negotiate going forward if that’s the
objective he wants to achieve? The first possibility is to seek a treaty amendment, very difficult
to do because, as we’ve discovered before, it requires the agreement of all of the member
states, plus the Council, plus the European Parliament and in those states which require
a referendum, there will need to be a referendum as well. So there’s not much enthusiasm for
having treaty amendments but were we to overcome those hurdles, he could seek a treaty amendment
which had, for example, an emergency break, so dealing with the problem that if there
is mass immigration which is jeopardising the stability of the labour market, he can
pull the brake and curtail that migration for a period of time: one possibility. Another
possibility is to introduce a points-based system saying we will only admit into the
UK people with certain high, usually high skills level according to a points-based system,
a system that’s applied in other non-EU states. It seems to me these are both extremely unpalatable
options, emergency break perhaps less so because it would be in the case of an emergency and
it’s very unlikely that we will ever have such a large influx of migrants as we did
in 2004. Points-based system, you’ve got to remember
that there is a quid pro quo that if the UK manages to get that in the treaty then it
will apply equally to British people going to work, going to live in other member states,
and you need to remember that there are about as many British people living in other member
states as there are migrants living in the UK. So what’s sauce for the goose is sauce
for the gander and it could be used against the UK and against the UK’s interests. Furthermore,
as I’ve said to you, it’s really quite important that migrants come in because they’re doing
a lot of jobs for which there is no appetite, for a combination of reasons, for people to
do who are national workers. So amending the treaty is one possibility.
The second possibility is to amend the directives, so there is a very important directive called
the Citizen’s Rights Directive, directives are the second tier in terms of the EU hierarchy.
It would be easier to amend a directive and that amendment might possibly include some
sort of emergency break, easier to deliver but again same problem, what can be done by
the UK against migrant workers can equally be done against British workers working in
other member states. Furthermore, radical reform of the directive is not possible if
in any way the reform of the directive in any way interferes with free movement of workers
as laid down by the hierarchically superior norm in Article 45. The UK has already in the context of the directives
extended the period of residence before individuals can claim social welfare benefits and that,
providing it’s non-discriminatory, is legitimate. The third thing that the UK could do is to
apply transitional arrangements, as Germany and Austria did in 2004, to any new member
state that joins the EU, and that’s exactly what we did with Bulgaria, with Romania, and
we are now doing it for Croatia as well. That of course doesn’t address the problem, as
the government perceives it, of having very large numbers of migrants currently working
in the UK. The suggestion in the Sunday Times, which has been floated by the government,
is that we should issue a limited number of national insurance numbers to low skilled
European migrants, as the senior Conservative is reported as saying. But again, this may
risk harming our economy because we need low skilled migrants as well as high skilled migrants
to work in those sectors, like meat processing, other food sectors, agriculture and also the
care sector. So, actually, what’s on the table for the
Conservatives is not terribly appealing to a conservative audience that wants to interfere
with or limit free movement of workers. The final point I want to make to you is that
migrants, the evidence does show, are a net benefit to the UK economy. The figures are
contested, it’s not always clear but most of the reports that have reported on what’s
been done in this field suggest that migrants contribute about 34 percent more to the fiscal
system than they take out. If you think about it, that’s not very surprising, most of the
migrants who are here are young, fit, healthy, they want to work, they thus contribute through
paying tax and national insurance and because they are young, mercifully they are not a
big drain on the health care system, nor on the pension system. So, this is a delicate,
it’s a complex area and there’s no one single quick easy fix, which the government will
be able to deliver.

Author:

16 thoughts on “Can Free Movement of Workers be Stopped?”

  • All very informative, but wouldn't it be better if the UK had the right to make its own decisions on who we allow in to work and settle? It is the right of any country who it allows in and who it doesn't, so why has it given this basic right away? There are many reasons a country should retain this right, but some of them are to preserve the culture, common sense of history, law of the people, language, economy and social cohesiveness of the society within it.

    At the moment we have given away that right to a corporation called the EU, who Prof Barnard works for, that is aggressively taking over the UK as a country from within. A fifth columnist if ever there was one. Never confuse the EU with Europe. The EU is a corporation with Nazis roots whose philosophy is from the same family to Nazism and Communism. The parent to both is Marxism. The EU is like a third sibling and a mix of Nazis, Communism and Corporatism that doesn't use guns bombs and bullets, it uses international treaties, multi-national corporations, outside the democratic processes to defeat nation states and bind them up in legal diktats and threats of economic ruin if they don't cooperate.

    A legalized invasion of millions from the continent of potentially 500 million which may have been ok to a point as they hold similar values of freedom and liberties, but now it seems 7 billion who qualify under the very lax EU Common asylum policy means whatever made the UK and Europe special as a country and Europe as a continent becomes lost over time. Lost sooner than you think. The very reason they come to the UK, a precious culture that took thousands of years in spilt blood and broken bones to gain rights and liberties, is trodden under foot and broken.

    I do wonder how long it will be before Catherine is grateful to the EU when she is forced to walk around in a Burka, but it won't be her it will be her children and grand children. How many others will no longer be able to sit in their favorite pub because they've all been closed down either through a lack of trade or Sharia Law being imposed at an EU level as a caliphate takes over across the whole of Europe. Rights that many take for granted today like freedom of speech, equal rights, freedom of association, freedom of worship, freedom to not worship and democracy. All the things that the UK and the EU has fought for across Europe will vanish without a trace.

    These are all rights that were hard earned will be lost because the European Union has opened its doors to the rest of the world, who do not have the same sense of freedoms and liberties we in the West, including I suspect Prof Barnard holds dear. When the invaders numbers outweigh your own society and start holding all the positions of power, they will change the laws to favour the invaders. I ask Prof Barnard to look through the portals of history and tell me how many cultures have survived an invasion of such numbers?
    That's the reason you control the borders.

  • We wont see an influx of migration as we did in 2004? Really? Net migration into the UK in 2004 was 268k. Net migration last year was 336k, and 318k in 2014. Wake up.

  • Yes, with strong border security and a strict immigration policy that only accepts immigrants who have specialties in job fields that are short on labor. Otherwise you are flooding the labor market arbitrarily and to the detriment of the working class. Its always a sad thing when a citizen loses their job because its cheaper to hire a foreign immigrant who will accept less pay. In the United States we have crops that need to be harvested, and the native citizens don't want to do it in the number needed to get the job done so we have immigrants on worker visas come over and pick the crops to make up the difference. That is a scenario where it is good. On the other hand we recently had Disney lay off 1400 workers and forced them to train their H1-B foreign workers to replace them. They laid off American citizens and put cheaper foreigners in their positions. That destroyed the income for over a thousand families, and they are citizens, not foreigners, that is a very bad scenario and its happening. Immigration policy and economic policy should ALWAYS favor the working class citizen who is dependent on salaries and wages over a companies ability to replace them with cheaper immigrant labor or to use corporate inversion and move out of country. Domestic wages and prices for labor in richer countries can never compete with the cheap labor of poor countries, so instead of allowing the free movement of labor across national boundaries and sending our economies into a spiral of stagnant wages and labor market saturation we should treat our domestic workers with the privilege they have of living in their home country and having a right to compete fairly with their fellow citizens, instead of migrants.

  • But most importantly Cameron took our social rights by making amendment 2013 to EC 38/2004..
    So there were amendments already done! Not necessarily to the free movement of people, but by taking our social right (unemployment benefits) the British government has undermined our negotiation power because our potential employers KNOW that we dont have right to have unemployment benefits..
    And those who complained about eastern European lowering wages, well by taking their rights they take their means of negotiation.. Get it??
    besides eastern Europeans are knowingly prevented to grow in British society and they are kept "stuck" in the same menial jobs..

  • I've been to Australia and China too. I can, if needed, fill in a bloody form! If you are only able to speak to children, then perhaps primary education is where you belong.

  • there is great infomration there but sadly you wont look at the camera and it is most disconcerting as a result im not engaged, which is a real pity

  • I find the argument that "we need foreign workers" and "British people won't do the jobs" (which you sort of touch on) completely unacceptable.

    Every time somebody say "our NHS relies on immigrant workers" etc, my immediate thought is… only because you utterly failed to educate our own people with useful skills that we actually need.

    I would also like to hear how governments intend to proactively deal with automation. Please explain to me the rationale behind mass importing unskilled labour, at the very moment that robots are poised to replace millions of people.

    The future wealth of nations is inevitably going to be largely based on available physical resources as the price of labour will go through the floor. The population to available resource ratio will also be a large factor. It is utterly ridiculous that one of the most densely populated countries in the world should be increasing it's population.

    Instead we should be seeking to expand our available physical resources, and the obvious way to do that is via a space program. Start laying claim to areas on the moon etc before everyone else does.

  • i have no problem with the Migrants from Eastern Europe. My problem is with the Businesses that have favoured them and practiced discrimination against British Workers. A few of them have told me that they won't employ British People. The C B I have even said that tbe British are Work Shy and tbe B B C repeats that Narrative all the tjme. They even made a Panarama programme where they got a Few Lazy British People to work alongside Hard Working Eastern Europeans. Also Private Landlords increased their rents because they had a larger market. We didn't have the infrastructure in place to accept so many People ie Doctors Surgery's Hospitals ect. i blame the Businesses and Private Landlords for really exploiting the whole situation. i find the Eastern European People polite and respectfull and when they work alongside the British Workers they are good friends and get along well.

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