Cameron and EU migrants: facts vs fears
Last week the government finally released the ‘Balance of Competences’ report on EU migration which it had delayed for 7 months due to internal disputes over whether it was ‘too positive‘ on migration. Looking over the report, the heavy hand of political meddling is obvious.
The facts on migration presented in the report do indeed indicate the positive contribution that EU migration has had on the UK. It presents a wide range of evidence including the TUC’s submission which shows that EU migration provides billions of extra income for the UK and that benefit tourism is a myth.
Regardless of this, however, it is people’s unfounded fears on migration that are given more weight in the report. It notes that due to ‘public concern’ more restrictions should be considered on EU migrants’ ability to claim benefits.
Buoyed up no doubt by this evidence-free recommendation, Cameron trumpeted increased benefit restrictions for EU migrants this week. They will now have to wait 3 months before claiming benefits and then only able to claim for 3 months where previously they could claim for 6.
The European Commission has announced it is looking into the legality of the proposals (much to Nigel Farage’s delight who used this to justify why Britain was handcuffed by Brussels in the Telegraph today).
Cameron’s proposed benefit restrictions for migrants are objectionable firstly because of the hardship they will cause migrants (as Richard Exell blogged previously).
They also add to the list of government policies (like the annual cap on net migration and NHS charges for migrants) to tackle migration problems that don’t exist in order to distract voters from real problems caused by their austerity agenda that is hitting people hard.
These are problems that, unlike benefit tourism, are backed up by ample evidence.
It is both revealing and worrying that Nigel Farage chose jobs and wages as the terrain on which to attack Cameron’s proposals on benefits today.
Farage realises economic insecurity is people’s real problem, however UKIP’s policies would only increase hardship by heightening discrimination, robbing workers of rights guaranteed by the EU and letting the rich pay less tax.
The only real solution lies in providing a fairer deal for workers, as the TUC General Secretary Frances O’ Grady has written. That means decent pay, stable contracts, a voice at work, investment in public services and decent welfare for all.
The facts are clear. The politics of fear offer workers nothing.