Brexit is not the answer to UK immigration concerns
by Jo Cox MP
With many voters still making up their minds about a decision that will shape the future of our country, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory offered a stark warning that despite offering the world the Leave campaign cannot guarantee what would happen to migration if we left.
Most voters recognise that our country has reaped many benefits from immigration, from the brilliant doctors in our NHS to the skilled workers helping our economy to grow. Yet across the country people face everyday worries about job security, school places and GP appointments.
In the last two weeks of the campaign voters should know that despite these legitimate concerns, Brexit is not the answer. Here’s why:
First, Brexit doesn’t guarantee that migration will come down. In fact, a more liberal approach to non-EU immigration – as advocated by the Leave camp – could actually see it increase.
Australia – whose points-based system is so admired by Outers – has twice as many migrants per person than we do. The whole purpose of their system is to allow businesses to control who comes into their country. For us this would lead to an increase in cheap labour, bringing down wages and doing nothing to ease voter concerns about insecure employment.
Voters also need to know that the free movement of EU citizens to Britain will not automatically stop if we left. The only way to do that is to leave the single market – an act of economic self-destruction that would be catastrophic for businesses and jobs across the country.
Second, we can do far more to deal with the pressures caused by migration from inside the EU. Labour has long pushed for an end to the payment of benefits to people who don’t live permanently in this country, and for a major extension of the time EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim benefits – a commitment secured by the Prime Minister as part of the renegotiation deal.
We can also help communities facing the greatest pressure from migration. Since 2001 EU migrants have contributed £20 billion more to our economy than they’ve taken out in benefits. This money must go quickly to areas where migrants are living, to fund schools and health services.
This will ensure that people come to this country knowing they need to play by the rules and work hard, and will reassure Brits that we have a fair, under control system that works for everyone.
And finally, the overall benefits of EU membership are massive. From businesses in Yorkshire to the President of the United States – and pretty much everyone in between – there is now an unprecedented consensus that leaving the EU would hurt our economy and hit our pockets.
We cannot allow voters to fall for the spin that a vote to leave is the only way to deal with concerns about immigration. We can do far more to address both the level and impact of immigration while remaining in the EU. I very rarely agree with the Prime Minister but on this he’s right: we are stronger, safer and better off in.
This article was published on the PoliticsHome.com website by Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, just 3 days before she was murdered by a far-right terrorist.