EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ : Action on Immigration
Geoffrey details the recent Conservative action on matters relating to migration and immigration.
When asked which EU powers people want to see returned from Brussels to the UK, control over immigration from European countries tops the list. Some of us have long understood the salience of this issue. Immigration has to be high up in a range of key policies - social and economic affairs, our currency, employment laws, justice, defence and fisheries - that should be wholly under British government control, directly answerable to the British people. But the argument over immigration is distorted if it is thought that most migrants come from the EU. They don't. Most come from elsewhere. Four times the number come from outside Europe. During the Labour years, 600,000 net migrants came from Europe while 2.5 million came from the rest of the world.
It has taken so long to get some action because, for most of the past decade, Labour was in power with a deliberate policy of uncontrolled immigration. With a Conservative-led government, we are now getting a grip - already net immigration is down by a third and measures are being put in place to deter those just coming to live off benefits. The European Commission doesn't like this and so is taking Britain to court over what it sees as discriminatory action. This is yet another reason why I reject the idea of "European citizenship" and believe that the concept of "free movement of people" needs serious change. As one academic has observed, “the economic logic originally used to justify freedom of movement - that economic integration requires free movement of labour - has been replaced by a political one: European free movement rights are now justified in terms of EU citizenship.”
Although most migration comes from elsewhere and needs drastic reduction, EU migration is also a problem and it is this aspect which is particularly felt in parts of the East of England. Why do they come? Most want to work. Of these, some bring valuable skills but many are just willing to work hard for low wages on unattractive tasks and live in very poor conditions. This can have some appalling consequences as we have recently seen in places such as Wisbech. And it's a question of indigestible numbers.
Millions of British people benefit from freedom of movement, work and residence across Europe and many of our local food producers and other industries need to draw on additional, often seasonal, labour from the continent. This is all very different from citizenship, with all the duties and obligations that term implies, or benefit tourism.
The remedies are in our hands. One way or another, Conservatives are determined to bring about the changes that are necessary for the health and integrity of our country and which so many of our people have long demanded.
Geoffrey Van Orden is Conservative MEP for the East of England focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He is the author of "Multiculturalism - A Destructive New Dogma?". He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org