Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit: direct consequence of new-EU migration

The causal chain of events leading up to last Thursday's vote was as follows:

May 2004 - the UK labour market is opened to citizens of the eight new EU countries, of which Poland was the largest, on the very day of EU enlargement.

January 2013 - Premier David Cameron promises an in/out referendum on EU membership. By doing so, he paves the way for Conservative electoral victory in May 2015.

March 2013 - the UK government agrees to hold an in/out referendum on Scotland's independence. Mr Cameron ensured there was no third option, namely 'devo max', giving Scots the chance to vote for maximum devolution from London, but falling short of full independence.

September 2014 - Scots vote by 55% to 45% to remain in the United Kingdom.

May 2015 - David Cameron wins a second term as premier, buoyed by the result of the referendum that held the Union together, and by the promise of an EU referendum.

February 2016 - David Cameron announces the date of the referendum. He'd just returned from Brussels having negotiated reforms with the rest of the EU, reforms that the British media decried as being virtually meaningless.

June 2016 - Britain votes by 52% to 48% to leave the EU.

Let's look at how this came to pass.

Back in 2004, Tony Blair's government had the option of a seven-year transition period to shield the UK's labour market from the effects of unrestricted free movement of labour, which is one of the EU's four freedoms - movement, goods, services and capital. Germany, sensing that opening its labour market could mean a flood of Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians coming there to work, chose to deploy the transitional arrangements. But with UK job vacancies running at around 600,000 and many employers calling out for workers - not cheap workers - but any workers - the Blair government chose economic growth over social cohesion. In any case, the number of migrants that would come from the eight new accession countries to work in the UK had been estimated at 13,500 a year.

This estimate, upon which the government decided to open the door to migrant workers from the so-called Accession Eight (A8) countries, was wrong by a factor of twenty. It is, I would argue, the main cause of the last Thursday's result.

Hundreds of thousands came each year, and - unlike previous waves of migration to the UK which tended to remain in the cities, the new migrants fanned out across the country to find work in warehouses, hotels, slaughterhouses, farms, distribution centres and factories in small rural communities that had rarely seen a foreign face before.

Previous waves of migrants, in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s were predominantly coloured. Strong anti-racist legislation made criticism of migration akin to incitement to racial hatred. But then the newest wave began to arrive in larger numbers in a shorter time than ever before in the history of migration to Britain. And this time, they were white. So suddenly it was OK to say "I don't like migration" because that statement no longer equated with "I don't like coloured people".

While the educated classes that had their gripes with the EU, the way it was run, its centralising and federalising tendencies, democratic accountability, loss of national sovereignty etc, the less well-off in smaller towns across the UK - the losers in the process of globalisation - saw the promised referendum as being about migration and "taking control of our borders".

The leaders of the Brexit campaign could see the bind that they were in. They knew full well that to ensure full 'control of the borders' could only be achieved by total disengagement from the EU and the European Economic Area. Which would mean re-negotiating trade agreements with the EU as a complete outsider, and having to accept tariffs on trade. Which would mean economic hardship for many years. Business needs to be part of the single European market if its economy is not to suffer. The Brexiteers were less than straight with the migrant-fearing electorate, suggesting that somehow EU migration could be controlled (read 'stopped') while market access would remain.

It was the publication on 27 May of the official net migration figures for 2015 that tipped the polls in favour of Brexit. Before that time, Remain tended to show a narrow lead. After the publication of the data, which showed 330,000 more people migrating to the UK than leaving it, support for Leave took the lead in the polls, and remained there until the killing of Jo Cox. That resulted in the polls showing a narrow 'Remain' lead. In the end migration worries trumped the wave of sympathy for the dead MP.

Many of England's larger cities did not want to leave the EU.
London voted 60% in favour of remaining.
Manchester voted 60% in favour of remaining.
Bristol voted 60% in favour of remaining.
Liverpool voted 58% in favour of remaining.
York voted 58% in favour of remaining.
Leicester voted 51% in favour of remaining.
Leeds voted 50% in favour of remaining.
[Just under 50% of Birmingham voted to remain.]
These cities have known mass migration for decades and have long adopted a tolerance for diversity. When I was in primary school in West London in the mid-1960s, one-third of my class were either immigrants or children of immigrants. So new waves of migrants coming to London or Manchester or Liverpool have not unduly worried the population in those cities.

Correlating Electoral Commission results with census data from 2001 and 2011, the areas of England that voted most heavily for Brexit were not those with the largest proportions of migrants, but those that had seen the fastest rise in immigration since EU enlargement.

Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the EU (compared to 55% in favour of remaining in the UK in the September 2014 referendum). Northern Ireland voted 56% in favour of remaining in the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland also experienced rapid rises in new-EU migration post-2004, but Scotland has a population density five times lower than England, while Northern Ireland has a different set of issues altogether.

Voting to leave the EU was predominantly small-town England. The most votes for 'leave' were from Boston, Lincolnshire (80%). According to the 2011 census, 11% of Boston's population was born in Poland, Lithuania or other new EU member states. The new influx came to work in agriculture and logistics; the jobs were evidently there, employers were welcoming them.

[And from Wikipedia, about Boston, this: "In the mid-2000s Boston was shown to have the highest obesity rate of any town in the United Kingdom, with one-third of its adults (31%) considered clinically obese. Obesity has been linked to social deprivation." I'll let you, dear readers, draw your own conclusion.]

Worried about the seemingly unstoppable rise in migration from Central and Eastern Europe, the less advantaged citizens of English and Welsh towns and villages voted to leave the EU.

Some - like Boston - have felt the impact of CEE migration to their towns, and from first hand experience, voted 'Leave' to try to stop it. Other small towns and villages have experienced little migration of any kind (such as Amber Valley in Derbyshire, where my brother lives), and yet voted strongly 'Leave'.

It would be interesting to tally the referendum results with data from the 2011 Census, to see whether large numbers of people born in the A8 countries resulted in a boost for 'Leave' - Ealing (60% 'Remain') also has a large Polish-born population, but then Ealing has had many immigrants living there for over half a century.

Economic arguments did not deter the English for voting 'Leave'. The case of Sunderland, home to the Nissan factory than employs 6,500 people, which voted 61% to leave, ignoring the fact that Nissan will not invest in new production lines in the factory should the UK leave the EU, is written up in the Financial Times today. The story shows how poorly thought through the decision was for many voters, who did not consider the consequences of their actions before polling day.

What happens next is a combination of so many known and unknown unknowns as to defy any serious attempt at prediction.

I recommend, in similar tone, this piece by British-Polish novelist B.E. Andre

This time last year:
Still flying after all these years

This time two years ago
Yorkshire's smallest city

This time three years ago:
Cramp in the night

This time four years ago:
Football goes home

This time five years ago:
Birds of Omen

This time six years ago:
Yes, it does matter who you vote for

This time seven years ago:
Poland could do with some more mountains

This time eight years ago:
Warmth of the Sun
- the Beach Boys and Noctilucence

This time nine years ago:
Polish roads that look like America


dr Marcin said...

Did you remember what I comment of 28.th April this year? I cite myself:

Dear Michael,

It's absolutely vivid, I mean, intentions are vivid. This is. This is only bargaining between Downing Street 10 and Brussels and nothing more. Sayin' some more. This looks like a blackmail... whether you ease us some of the Member conditions or... you'd have a huge problem. And nothing more. Coz the UK feels that it constantly looses its post-imperial bonus, that possessed throughout of numbers of decades. It almost looks like the Britain suffered its vision and a backup plan in case of this losing of its post-imperial position. And it looks like a desperate yelling, "SOS, May-day, May-day, SOS". A kind of a Titanic with no leadership.

How wrong was I, then? Where did I make a mistake?

The Titanic nowadays made a huge bang! Coz now, it doesn't look like, but it certainly looks, that the Britain suffers its vision and a backup plan in case of this losing of its post-imperial position. Non-ending post-imperial pretensions garnished by a superiority complex of being of the Lords of the world. My Grandma has always repeatedly told me Pycha kroczy przed upadkiem. While, she has never obtained an academic curricula but just a simple secondary school level. Now the UK has obtained a cold shower.

Gordon Hawley said...

The problem I have with the immigration / job issue is that when there are employment agencies who blatantly refuse to even interview British people for the jobs (only accept Eastern Europeans) then that's a problem. I have family from Poland who moved to the UK and have held very good jobs. Jobs that a British person I'm sure would be happy to do. They don't require a lot of skill, but they pay decently. Because the factory manager was East European, there was not a single British person employed there. Now obviously all of this is not the East European persons problem, the government should have sorted all this out, but for some reason they didn't. You can see how British people become upset when this type of situation occurs.

dr Marcin said...

@Gordon Hawley...

"... the factory manager was East European" ... and who was its owner? I mean, that factory. So, if it was a British then he or she might realize, that any of the prospect British citizen is worth of nothing to professionally manage of that factory. But, if an owner of that factory was someone from the Eastern Europe, then he or she knew better that a better candidate for a managerial position might be someone from the Eastern Europe, because of many reasons. Maybe that manager has possessed a much better professional background, experience, know-how, interpersonal and managerial skills... and so on and so on than many other British candidates on that position? Maybe that manager has constantly though about his/hers business not just up to five o'clock and how to perform better for that business? May be he/she has discovered in his/hers East European employees the same values, attitudes and willingness to work hard as he/she has had? Maybe for him/her that was much easier to communicate with his/hers East European employees in Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Latvian, Estonian and so on and so on and realized no necessity to employ English spoken staff? OK. If he or she is a Pole, then this should be obvious that if any John Doe wants to be employed there then must possess fluent Polish. Why? Because Mr Zenek is a boss there. Yes, I know, that for the vast majority of the Brits Poland is a rural superb of Moscow, where white bears freely live on the streets. But, forgive me, a reality is that many of mine nationals have improved and developed themselves through two and half decades even up to a global level. Imagine that somewhere in the future on the top of the Barclays/ Lloyds/ Nat West or alike will stand a guy named Mr Staszek Pipsztykiewicz from the City of Warsaw and some of thousands of his subordinates will be enforced to properly pronounce of his name and last name.

All right. Now, I have a serious question. Why do many of the British (whether foreign) companies here in Poland violate the Polish law, according to a language of jobs advertisements and make public ads only in English? OK. I agree that amongst of many of requirements expected from a candidate is native (is that a kind of a discrimination?) English and language proficiency in two or more foreign languages. But... ads making in English looks for me like a favoritism of the British expats settled in Poland. Not mention about internal job descriptions, nomenclature of positions, internal bay-laws, procedures and alike.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ dr Marcin:

You wrote: "Why do many of the British (whether foreign) companies here in Poland violate the Polish law, according to a language of jobs advertisements and make public ads only in English?"

Was the case prior to 2004. Not so since Poland joined the EU.

Place a job ad in Nasz Dziennik in Greek and see what happens next!!! :-)

dr Marcin said...


Do you want the freshest ads of one of the leading British head hunting agency operating in Poland? Perhaps, you know perfectly, whom I mean about. Or I may show you some of ads published by one of the British petroleum companies, jobs location: Kraków.