Guardian letter on free movement

We sent this letter to the Guardian and it was published 18/07/16

The UK-EU battle over free movement and terms of trade

David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, has focused his attention on removing the rights of EU workers in the UK (EU workers may get backdated deadline to stay, 18 July).

The prime minister, Theresa May, is also interpreting the Brexit vote as a vote to end the free movement of labour within the EU. But the government has no mandate to do so. The referendum vote was a vote to leave the EU, not to end the free movement of labour.

This is true despite misleading media “debates” blaming savage welfare cuts and worsening working conditions on immigrants and refugees, thus fuelling the post-referendum fivefold peak in race hate crimes. Absent from these “debates” are key facts, such as that immigrant workers contribute far more in taxes than they draw in benefits, or that public and private industries – from factories, farming and construction to the NHS – depend on the work of immigrant workers. We recognise the huge social, cultural and economic value of migration.

These “debates” divert the attention of local working people from the real causes of their concerns: the ongoing economic crisis, widening international inequalities, war, austerity and attacks on workers’ rights and conditions.

If, as a result of UK-EU negotiations, free movement within the European Economic Area ends, then EEA workers will be drawn into the same points-based immigration scheme, subject to the same continual visa restrictions and employer-sponsorship arrangements that non-EEA workers face. Something similar will likely happen to UK nationals living in or moving to the EEA.

All this will set off further demands for restrictions on non-EU immigrants. This vicious circle will put increasing competitive pressure on local working people, and weaken workers’ collective power and international solidarity.

The trade union movement has a long history of fighting alongside and defending immigrant workers, from Grunwick in the 1970s to current campaigns against the points-based immigration scheme.

As the experience of the UK and Ireland shows, open borders work. We believe it is right and timely to campaign for the free movement of labour, both within and without the EEA, under the slogan Free Movement for All.

Dave Muritu Chair, UCU equality committee, UCU NEC, Sandwell College, Lucia Pradella King’s College London, Phoebe Moore UCU rep, law and politics, Middlesex University London, Carlo Morelli UCU NEC, University of Dundee, Rachel Cohen UCU NEC, City University of London, Chris Jones UCU NEC, president UCU Wales, Sean Wallis UCU NEC, University College London, Marion Hersh UCU NEC, University of Glasgow, Jeff Fowler UCU NEC, University of Sunderland, Bruce Heil UCU NEC, The Open University, Lesley McGorrigan UCU NEC, University of Leeds, Sue Abbott UCU NEC, Northumbria University, Amy Jowett UCU NEC, Hackney ACE, Sean Vernell UCU NEC, City and Islington College, Patricia McManus UCU NEC, University of Brighton, Margot Hill UCU NEC, Croydon College, Alan J Ryan UCU NEC, De Montfort University, Julia Charlton UCU NEC, Northumbria University, Paul Errington UCU NEC, Teesside University, Joan Harvey UCU NEC, Newcastle University, Vicky Blake UCU NEC, University of Leeds, Ariane Bogain UCU NEC, Northumbria University, Xanthe Whittaker UCU NEC, Leicester University, Mick Dawson UCU NEC, Brooklands College, Mandy Brown UCU NEC, Lambeth College

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