Free Movement Open Organising Meeting
Monday 5 September, 4-6pm
University College London
This is an informal meeting, but at least one migration expert will be present and will speak about free movement and the likely impacts of Brexit on education.
Speaker: Prof Eleonore Kofman is an internationall known expert in migration, employment, welfare and politics. She is based at Middlesex University.
Location: Engineering Building
Room 1.20, First Floor, New Engineering
Access via: UCL Front Engineering Building opposite Waterstones junction with Malet St, Torrington Place.
The purpose of this meeting is to begin the practical process of organising opposition to the tide of propaganda against migration and to defend the free movement of labour.
The EU referendum has created a new and dangerous set of political conditions for people working and living in the UK. Barriers on travel and work for EU citizens in the UK are likely to be reciprocated by the EU, and (as in the USA and other parts of Europe) right-wing politicians are encouraging racism by encouraging the impression that migrants are a problem.
The question on the ballot – should Britain remain or leave a member of the European Union? – is thus being reinterpreted by many politicians as something much more far-reaching than political membership of the European Union. They wish to interpret the vote as a mandate to restrict immigration, and end the current arrangements within the European Economic Area (EEA) that permit the free movement of labour. Disgracefully, Prime Minister Theresa May has even refused to respect the official Leave campaign’s position of guaranteeing the right to stay for EU citizens currently lawfully living in the UK. Part of their justification is the belief that substantial numbers of British voters accept the argument for more restrictive immigration controls.
However the argument is founded on a deliberately-fostered misunderstanding. Many sectors of the UK economy depend on free movement of workers. Industrial Britain was built by immigrants, from Irish navvies and miners in the industrial revolution to many workers in construction, farming, technology, universities and finance in the present day. Recent immigration continues to be a net economic benefit and many aspects of modern life would not be possible without immigration.
The free movement of labour is not limited to the EU. UK and Irish citizens can move back and forth across the border, and non-EU European states are part of the EEA. Over one million British workers work in other EEA countries. Ending the free movement of labour will inevitably be reciprocated.
The role of individuals in campaigning against the racist arguments about immigration and in arguing for the positive benefits of migration cannot be underestimated. Hence the need for this campaign.
The latest timeline from Conservative politicians may place the final exit from the EU as late as 2019. We need to get organised to win a public argument and try to set the terms of the EU-exit in the interests of ordinary people working and living in the UK, whether they are citizens of the UK or other EEA member states.