The European question will be on the minds of many as they travel to the ballot boxes next week, but it’s for no good reason.
Scapegoating Europe is something which clearly appeals to a decent-sized chunk of the electorate, as the Tories and even Labour have had to make promises about Europe and immigration in order to fend off UKIP’s attack.
Voters have been subjected to an inescapable barrage of Farage over the past few months. By its very nature, the United Kingdom Independence Party suggests that its primary objective is a split from the EU. But it’s still not clear why this is the case.
Farage seems to suggest that ‘uncontrolled immigration’ has opened the doors to over 400 million EU migrants, bringing to mind terrifying images of wave after wave of workers storming the beaches of Dover. He also says that this is straining the NHS, and depriving British citizens of jobs.
To put it gently, this is utter bollocks. Here are some stats for you about EU immigration:
- From 2001 to 2011, EU immigrants contributed 64% more in taxes than they received in benefits.
- Migrants in this period were 43% less likely to receive benefits than UK-born workers.
- In 2011, 62% of migrants from EU-15 countries had degrees, making them better educated on average than Brits.
So economically, UKIP’s ideas don’t seem to make much sense. Mr Farage seems to bang on about how our population is rising to uncontrollable levels. It’s almost as if he has forgotten that populations rise almost exponentially EVERYWHERE, so population increase is nothing new.
Britain being a member of the European Union gives British citizens freedom of movement and establishment within Europe. This has obvious economic benefits, let alone the fact that we benefit from the European Convention on Human Rights (which would have to be replaced if we quit the EU).
What people often forget is that free movement isn’t entirely free; you must be a worker to gain these rights.
Nobody, not even the supposedly Britain-hating European Parliament, is suggesting that Britain opens its doors to benefit scroungers. We are well within our rights to deport those who are found to be abusing the system.
But what about British benefit scroungers? A study by the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory suggested that only 1.45% of Romanian migrant workers claimed benefits in 2013. For British people of working age, the figure was 9.5%.
Show me a world in which EVERY British person works and pays taxes, and then if the welfare bill is still seen as such a problem, we can consider the impact of immigration. But please do not suggest that British people are more entitled to rights and jobs than other people purely by virtue of being born here.
A Muslim with a degree is not stealing your job when you have two GCSEs and an STI
— ??LDN HOUSE ?? ()
The problem does not lie with Europe. It lies with the British government’s failure to encourage our citizens to take existing jobs. It lies with the citizens more willing to blame migrants than stay in school. It lies with business owners who exploit migrant workers.
We should use the EU to our advantage, not seek to distance ourselves from it. Introduce stricter controls on benefits, but make it a universal measure, because you can’t pretend that Brits aren’t a part of the problem. Clamp down on those who lure migrant workers over and pay them below the minimum wage. Use the financial contributions provided by migrant workers to invest in schools and the NHS, so that in the long term our citizens will benefit.
When you go to the ballots next week, push the European question to the back of your mind. Let go of the anachronistic concept of ‘Britishness’ and embrace the modern world. It might be scary, but if we can shrug off the fear, it will make the world a better place for all of us.
Do you see Britain’s EU membership as a problem? Let us know in the comments.