Monday, 26 September 2016

Defend Free Movement

Rachel Reeves, my MP, has issued a report via the Fabians and several follow up articles advocating labour adopts a position against free movement.
Here is my letter to her opposing this.

Hi Rachel

I read your piece in the New Statesman about ending free movement post Brexit.

As a shop steward at ****** in East Leeds and coming from Hull I also got an inkling a couple of days before the vote that Brexit was going to win. People I had helped convince vote Labour in 2015 at work and my family at home were nearly all voting out. Immigration was the number one reason. But I also represent polish workers who feel very anxious that this vote was directed at them..

I do think Jeremy Corbyn was one of the few politicians on the remain side to recognise the issue of wages and the EUs impact on working class people. I feel if the entire labour party could have got behind that we would have had a better chance.

However I think it will be the entirely wrong course to advocate the end of free movement.

Firstly in a situation of murders and attacks on the street of migrants and the far right growing across Europe, we have a duty as internationalists, socialists, progressives to stand against that. I think adopting an anti-immigration stance will undermine that and give credence to UKIP and the Tories lies.

Secondly free movement is a positive right. Our citizens enjoy it in Europe and it contributes much to our society. Ending it for people coming to Britain means ending it for people going from Britain. Also why should big business have the right to move money, goods and capital and people not have the same rights?

Thirdly You admit that the evidence is that EU migration might have a slight drag effect on wages but nothing compared to the depression of wages caused by the governments public sector pay freeze and the growth of casualization, zero hours contracts and the weakness of union’s. So ending free movement will not materially change workers conditions much if at all. If we know that to be the case we need to be honest about the true causes of growing inequality not give credence to the right wings blaming of foreigners for these massive structural issues.

Strengthening and extending collective bargaining, a real living wage properly enforced and banning Zero Hour contracts would have a massive material impact on millions of lives. We should focus on this.

Bringing back the migrant impact fund will also help.

Finally in electoral terms its not ground we are ever going to win on. Presumably you are not advocating ending immigration full stop or sending people already here home? The problem is there will always be right wing papers and right wing politicians willing to countenance this. Our anti-immigrant stance like the much derided Ed Stone will rightly never be credible because people know we don’t actually believe in it and think we should be an open welcoming country. Better to win people to our positive politics then offer a pale version of the rights rhetoric that’s not convincing.

Winning back lost working class voters in some areas is going to be hard and needs further discussion but I don’t think this route is the way will do this.


Dave K

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