Amber Rudd orders impact assessment of EU migrants on UK
The goal is still to end free movement. However, the Home secretary hopes the study will help limit any damage from doing so. It should also consider whether what we have already works.
Home secretary Amber Rudd announced today that she will be asking the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to look into the impact of migration from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) on the UK economy. Writing in the Financial Times, Rudd said creating an “immigration system that works in the best interests of the country” requires having “the most accurate picture possible of the extent to which the UK economy uses EU labour”. She added that this will “ensure we can build an industrial strategy that addresses long-term challenges to the UK economy”.
The Home secretary said the review will be “a chance for businesses and employers to express their honest opinions independently of the government. She also sought to reassure businesses and EU nationals that there would be no “cliff edge” when the UK leaves the EU.
I also want to reassure businesses and EU nationals that we will ensure there is no “cliff edge” once we leave the bloc.
Amber Rudd, Home secretary
Whilst it certainly seems that such a study will be beneficial to the UK, there are a couple of worrying issues here too.
First, the obvious one is that it’s long overdue. The panel is not due to report on its findings until September 2018. However Rudd said the government will set out its own “initial thinking on options for the future immigration system” this coming Autumn. She said interim reports from the review will be used to help inform this. Surely, it would have been helpful to have this study ordered – at the very earliest – during the aftermath of the referendum. More sensibly, it would have been helpful to have the study completed long before the referendum to inform the public before it was asked to make such an important decision.
Secondly, will the study’s scope include a proper examination of free movement and the ways in which government could better use the restrictions available within it? The Guardian reports the committee’s findings will help Home Office officials to draw up an immigration system that brings an end to free movement but doesn’t cause “economic damage or vital skills shortages”.
Framed in this way, it seems the purpose of this whole exercise is still to end free movement but limit any damage caused as a result.
In her article, Rudd writes “the public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration – in terms of type and volume – from within the EU”. If the evidence suggests that migration from the EU gives the UK overwhelming benefits with few costs, the public can be confident that the existing system we have already works. At the very least, the panel should examine whether applying the restrictions already available in the EU’s free movement rules could help in giving the public confidence that, to some extent, we already have the ability to control EU migration to the UK.
It’s probably pushing the boundaries of the panel, but I’d also like to see it examine the costs of Brits losing free movement in the EU. The Guardian has more on what else the panel has been asked to examine.