Johan Nerlov examines Theresa May’s new immigration policy.
Immigration was certainly a very hot topic during the 2016 Brexit Referendum and it has remained so since. Formerly a topic hardly murmured in the halls of Westminster, now nearly all politicians feel they must please at least one section of society, and it seems like May and her bunch feel it appropriate to support a particularly hard-right stance worthy of any UKIP voter’s support.
As a European immigrant this topic is very close to my heart, and although nearly all the life I can remember has been spent here, some part of me feels very distinctly continental and strongly European. It is no coincidence then, that I was curious about May’s new policy, and felt it necessary to voice my opinion on the topic and exposing its utter idiocies.
First, one must be careful not to overstate the numbers of European migrants, or underestimate the contribution they bring to this country its economy and prestige on the world stage. One example is the science and technology industry, particularly academic research. 21% of the science and research, mainly those carrying out experiments and teaching in Universities are EU migrants, and still they manage to attract over 45% of funding for research projects, thanks to their skills and, to be honest, their good working connections back on the continent, vital in an ever more global field. The car industry is another great example, with over half of all car companies based in the UK owned by European brands (notably BMW and Audi Group who recently acquired Bentley) amounting to over four hundred thousand people directly and indirectly involved with European owned car brands.
Never underestimate the contribution European migrants bring to this country
Another important aspect of the British-European relationship is the famous service industry. Even since Thatcher, the financial sector in the UK has become an integral part of the UK’s fabric as a nation, vital for its economy and important for its standing in the world as one of the richest, most advanced nations. Around 75% of the UK economy depends on services, and of that c. 50% is purely financial. It is obvious then that access to the ever growing (yes, even after Brexit) EU single market is absolutely vital for the survival of the UK economy. Hammond and Rudd particularly have made clear that they want to protect the UK economy in that respect, but are facing tough opposition from Davis, Johnson and even the Prime Minister, whose only chance of survival is to please both the hardest Brexiteers and the softest Remainers. On September 18th, Lloyds announced the moving of its main Headquarters to Dublin, and HSBC is thinking of moving to Frankfurt or Paris. Many in the fashion industry are also considering a move to Milan or Paris, fast becoming more attractive than London. My point is that the only way these sectors are going to be protected is by the government’s clear, pro-immigration stance that many leaders on the continent are seeking. Only then can a path forward be created, and, to be frank, the UK economy spared the inevitable losses ahead.
My conclusion is as follows: as a European, I know what the leaders back on the continent feel, and expect the British to concede in order for cooperation and inclusion into the ever more important EU and, on a broader scale, the coming Mediterranean market. This Mediterranean market is being spearheaded by the Union for the Mediterranean and IPMED (Institute de Prospective Politique Économique du monde Méditerranéen). I do see a future for the UK, but the fair and friendly treatment of EU citizens, and also non-EU citizens for that matter, is vital for the dream shared by many in this country, especially Brexiteers, to come true.