Remain or Brexit?

I’ve had enough of the official campaigns. What do the facts on the EUref say?


1. EU – UK Migration numbers

Let’s begin with a splattering of statistical facts. Taken from the reliable House of Commons parliamentary briefing paper on migration, these are reliable numbers:

1.2m Brits live and work elsewhere inside the EU. Reciprocally around 3m migrants from elsewhere in in the EU live and work inside the UK.  For a more precise figure we need the March 2011 census which indicates 2.68m. Declaration: it will not include migrants from Croatia (it joined the EU in July 2013).

It’s worth noting the Oxford Migration Observatory Survey has tweaked, but very similar numbers. They show 1.1m Brit born people living and working in the EU, while 2.6m EU nationals living and working in the UK.

Thus it is fair to say that more people, net, come to the UK than likewise leave for another EU country.

2. Economic impact

Short term migration is highly significant, and arguably most damaging in terms of wages and work conditions. – Priti Patel

Conservative employment minister Priti Patel argues that EU migration on the scale outlined above is both “highly significant” and “damaging”to wages and working conditions. But let’s remove the emotion and examine this claim with hard facts.

Jonathan Wadsworth, one of the authors of the CEP (Centre of Economic Performance) report and a former member of the government’s Migration Advisory Committee, says: “There is still no evidence of an overall negative impact of immigration on jobs, [or] wages.”

Wadsworth paper for the CEP argues that not only do EU migrants not drive down wages, he argues they don’t account for the majority of new job take-ups either. So on this basis, despite being a Tory myself, I’m unable to see the justification for Ms Patel’s quotation above. If she has different statistics, I’d love to see them. If she has access to superior data models, I’d appreciate her releasing them to the general public. But until she does, I’m obliged to believe CEP (and other similar) statistical models.

3. Social impact

How can any government arrange sensible healthcare provision for citizens when the migratory flow is so large, with absolutely no power or control over the quantity coming in every year?

“We are seeing a housing crisis and huge issues with the lack of school places required for such a rapidly rising population – Nigel Farage

I’ll again quote the CEP report: “There is still no evidence of an overall negative impact of immigration on jobs, wages, housing or the crowding out of public services. Any negative impacts on wages of less skilled groups are small.”

Note the words “no evidence” and “overall negative impact”. The CEP analysis suggests that contrary to Mr Farage claim, there is absolutely no evidence of a negative economic impact of EU migration into the UK for public and social services. And where there might be an impact; on unskilled labour; the impact is “small” (i.e. not nearly as soul-crushingly dramatic as UKIP & Brexit are claiming).

And note the tail-end of the CEP report summation which explains “One of the largest impacts of immigration seems to be on public perceptions”. 

If migration from the EU into the UK (and vice-versa) is doing anything it’s providing an excuse for Brexiteers and Farage in particular to exacerbate peoples fears. I’m not prepared to let anyone exploit my irrational fears. I’m going to base my decision on the rationale ‘what do the facts say?’. The facts seem to be showing little negative hard economic impact on unskilled labour, and absolutely no negative impact overall; either in terms of pay or social impact.

4. Conclusion

Are more people from the EU entering the UK for work compared to UK people leaving to work elsewhere in the EU? Yes.

Has this labour mobility harmed the UK economy? No, not according to the CEP report analysis. Has it driven down wages and pay inside the United Kingdom? Again, not according to CEP. Certainly not overall, and if at all in a ‘small’ way for unskilled jobs. Has this labour mobility undermined public and social service provision? Incontrovertibly not.

Thus I find it hard to swallow the rhetoric emanating from UKIP, and many on the official Brexit campaigns. The statistics simply isn’t reinforcing the claims they’re making on the issue. I leave the inevitable discussion of the merits & ethics of Brexit strategy for others to speculate on. But these where some hard facts. If you fancy reading a Financial Times article that explores these same issues surrounding the Brexit debate, you can find it here (for free!)

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