In today’s blogpost we shall examine the potential consequences that a UK exit from the EU would have on UK immigration within the EU. Greater democracy and transparency as well as increased economic sovereignty are but a few of the arguments cited in favour of leaving the union. Those against an EU exit fear the economic impact of job loses linked to the EU and the ease of freedom of movement ought to convince voters that the status quo should remain the same. Regardless of the side of the discussion fence that you may sit on, economics and freedom of movement are two key areas that are hotly contested as the debate starts to move into full swing.
It has been no secret that the EU and the UK seem to be on a collision course over the next year. Central to the UK government’s arguments about a changing role within the EU is the issue of migration. Across the summer violent images of desperate migrants entering the EU dominated headlines across Europe as the continent struggled to handle this latest wave of migration. Indeed, the issue of internal migration from within the EU has further added to the debate as net migration reached all-time record levels partially due to the number of EU citizens migrating to the UK.
Currently non-EEA applicants are subject to strict UK immigration rules and regulations in the areas of both work and personal immigration. Applicants often have to pass English language tests, meet certain points based criteria and provide proof that they meet the specific requirements of specific visas such as earning above a certain threshold. However, EEA applicants are not subject to any such requirements thus facilitating their ability to reside and work in the UK. As an EU member state the UK is powerless to enact such a policy that would restrict EU migration. However, those in favour of an EU exit believe that if the UK were to leave the EU then it would have greater power to control EU migration.
At what cost
Whilst leaving the EU is a big step into unknown territory one can look at the current EU wide policies that the UK would be exiting as an indicator as to how the UK’s relationship would potentially change. Currently the consequences of leaving the EU seem to raise more questions than answers and both sides of the debate are furiously attempting to outline their points. We have chosen three key areas that would be affected should the UK leave the EU
Migration – Inbound
It goes without saying that leaving the EU would give the UK more control over its immigration policy. It is thought that the UK could potentially look to target other similarly economically stable countries such as the USA and relax rules in order to attract greater business investment. Other possibilities include the creation of a commonwealth passport that would target Canada, Australia and New Zealand, again facilitating both personal and business immigration to the UK as well as forming immigration treaties with the original EU 15 nations. Of course, by leaving the EU the UK would no longer be obliged to allow EU citizens the freedoms to travel to and work in the UK without needed a specific visa.
Migration – Outbound
Whilst the question of how inward immigration would be affected should the UK leave the EU has been raised it is important to draw attention of how UK migration to the EU may change. Much like our European cousins, UK citizens are able to reside and work within the EEA with virtually no restrictions. However, these benefits are almost certain to change. Britons would potentially face visa restrictions as the current fast track service would most likely be receded. With millions of Britons enjoying the benefits of working and holidaying in the EU it is certain that the impact of leaving the EU would massively restrict these benefits.
Loss of Trade
One of the key arguments for staying in the EU relates to the economic benefits that membership brings. Critics argue that leaving the EU would mean turning our back on one of the biggest trading partners in the world. Migrant workers both from the UK and from Europe would face added restrictions in moving between the two entities as trade and work restrictions may be enacted. It is not only direct trade that would be affected. Being part of the EU means being part of one of the most powerful trading blocks in the world. The leverage that this brings means that the UK is, in theory, able to exert a greater influence as part of this trading group than if it were not.
Whilst it is difficult to fully outline the consequences of leaving the EU it is still possible to provide a rough outline as to the key advantages and disadvantages. Yes, the UK would have more power to control its own boarders and would not be subject to the current, centralised immigration policy, but at what cost? Economically speaking it remains unclear and both those in favour and against an EU exit outline interesting arguments. What does remain clear however, is that over the next year both sides will continue to build their points in the attempt to convince voters that their argument is the one to carry the UK forward sans or avec the EU.
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