In a party political broadcast of the UK Labour Party (see below), Labour leader Ed Miliband announces a tougher stance on immigration. Stating that the last Labour government got it wrong he called for ‘maximum transitional controls’ for new EU member states.
This has to be seen against the backdrop of the irrational campaign that somehow 29 million poor Romanians and Bulgarians are waiting to invade Britain because of its great economy and generous welfare payments. Well, in reality that British economy has been in crisis for years and welfare payments are not generous compared to other EU member states that also open their doors. As Romania and Bulgaria have both been subject to a 7-year transitional period, it remains unclear what ‘maximal transitional controls’ really means in terms of tougher restrictions.
Miliband also states that ‘low-skill migration has been too high’ but goes on to propose the skilling up of UK workers and the clampdown on bad business practises as solutions rather than pushing caps on migration as the Tory-led government does.
Nobody denies that there can be dislocations and social problems as a result of large migration movements but this issue is clearly a European and not a national one. Especially the current UK government is just looking for new ways to pull up the drawbridge (or leave the EU altogether) rather than seeking workable Europe-wide solution. As happened before there are not only migration concerns in the destination countries but also in the countries of origin that suffer from significant brain-drain. It is a myth that only poor low-skilled people want to migrate.
How can we strike a balance between the European right of freedom of movement, positive labour mobility and social cohesion and prosperity from the European level down to local communities? This is the question that needs an answer and it needs to be a European answer.
This is a very tricky issue for Labour and it is not going to go away any time soon. The New Statesman aptly summarised the danger:
Miliband’s approach raises the possibility of a more progressive conversation about immigration. But with his declaration that immigration, or at least one form of it, is “too high”, some in Labour fear he has entered into a war that he cannot possibly win.