A querk of the timing of EU referendum is that, now in late April 2016, I am campaigning both for election to Cambridge City Council and for a vote for the UK to remain in the EU. My election literature is clear that I am campaigning for both. How do they link?
My Independent opponent made a comment in a recent leaflet that we should keep Cambridge City Council elections local and that he was not going to talk publicly about his views in the EU. That set me thinking. I can see his point, but things are much more interconnected than that. At the very least, the stability brought by the EU means local councils don’t have to think about “the war effort” (or the war memorial) as they did in the twentieth century.
On the doorsteps we are a week away from the local elections and the EU referendum is two months away. Support for the Liberal Democrats and for EU membership are (mostly) going together, and there is a phalanx who clearly say they are voting “Independent and out”.
One of the Eurosceptic comments I have been hearing on the doorsteps recently is the argument that the EU is bad because of its treatment of Greece. I’m fascinated to year Yanis Varoufakis, formerly finance minister in the Syriza party argue strongly for the EU.
When people present this argument against the EU I’ve tended to respond by looking at ways to help in the regeneration of Greece. This is not to say a tough approach is always best, and there have been raw feelings among the Greeks going back to the second world war, but I’ve tended to argue that the route the EU took is probably the fastest to re-stabilise Greece.
In an interview with Owen Jones in The Guardian Varoufakis begins by pointing out that Brexit would leave the UK much more exposed to TTIP. At the moment (April 2016) it is not clear what the final text of TTIP will be, but Varoufakis is clearly right that, within the EU, we have the capacity to influence things, where outside we could do little more than accept what we are offered. He continues:
At first sight it can seem obvious that immigration undermines wages, at least in low-paid work. One of the rallying cries of the Eurosceptic right is about “foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs”. But is this true?
In an earlier post, I commented that “people at the bottom of the pile, resentful at the opportunities they feel they don’t have, are the ones who would lose most if these migrants stopped coming (or ‘went home’)”. I’d like to unpack this.
At first sight, challenging this seems counter-intuitive. In 2013, UKIP were spreading stories of 350,000-400,000 likely migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when restrictions on emigration were lifted. In reality, the number of EU migrants employed in the UK actually fell in the subsequent few months.
Today’s tranche of emails included one from Immigrant Spirit, which highlights the other side of this. It quotes Andreas Meyer-Falcke, Commissioner of Human Resources for the City of Düsseldorf, saying that in the next five years one third of his employees will retire. Thousands of jobs will become available. It asks: “How could expatriates benefit?”
The free movement of people means that, provided we vote to remain in the EU, I could respond to this by applying for one of those jobs in Düsseldorf, or anywhere else in the EU.