Some 62% of people in my constituency of Enfield, Southgate voted to remain in the EU. I too voted to remain and, like many, I was stunned by the result of the referendum. Many of my constituents found it hard to comprehend. Those who had any relationship with an EU citizen became very anxious and worried about the future.
Some people voted leave because of immigration. I do not believe we had a proper debate about immigration during the referendum, as any reasonable talk of it was drowned out by the noise. The immigration White Paper states that the Government are committed to reducing annual net migration to sustainable levels, but they should be honest about immigration and spell out how it is a good thing for the UK.
EU migrants are net contributors to the UK economy, paying taxes of over £2 billion per year. Contrary to what was being peddled by some on the leave side, immigrants are 43% less likely than native-born UK residents to claim benefits and 7% less likely to live in social housing. The truth is that when people come here, they are not coming here to claim benefits but are coming here to work. When they are working, the whole economy benefits. My constituents who are EU nationals have been working in the UK for many years, contributing to the UK economy. They pay taxes, keep our public services and businesses going, and socially enrich our local community.
Let us face facts: the UK has an aging population. The Office for National Statistics puts the UK median age at 40, with 18% aged over 65, and that figure is increasing. Only workers will secure our future. EU migrants to the UK have tended to be younger and better educated and have the high skills that we need for economic growth. What would it have cost the UK economy to train all those highly educated EU migrants here in the UK? I have no doubt that it would have run into many billions. We are getting the benefit of their education and skills for free because they are choosing to work in the UK.
I am the son of immigrants. My parents came to the UK in the 1960s. They worked hard, paid their taxes, bought their own home and raised a family of three. There were many more like them who made a positive contribution to the UK economy over many years. The Treasury Committee’s report on the UK’s economic relationship with the EU concluded that there will be a significant negative impact on GDP when we leave the EU if there is no free movement of workers.
Conservative Members espouse the idea that leaving the EU would bring freedom from regulatory bureaucracy. The deal actually creates more bureaucracy for business and workers. To recruit a non-UK citizen to work here, an employer would have to make a job offer, pay fees and charges and then hope that the Home Office would process the visa application with lightning speed. It sounds simple, but I am sure all Members know from their casework that visa applications already take months and months. I am not filled with confidence that work visa applications will be dealt with speedily in a vastly under-resourced, understaffed Home Office.
This bureaucracy could lead to a logjam. It will be bad for business, bad for the economy and bad for the people of the UK. Is this what taking back control was meant to mean? This bureaucracy will also apply to doctors, scientists and engineers, to name but a few. Can we really afford any delay when a surgeon is needed to come to the UK to carry out a life-saving operation? And what about the jobs that do not meet the £30,000 salary threshold? We already have a shortage of care workers, teachers, nurses, social workers and other professions that pay less than £30,000 per year. Perhaps the Government are planning on introducing legislation to bring those professions’ minimum pay up to £30,000 per year, but I think not.
Rather than setting us free and allowing us to take back control, this deal would tie the UK up in red tape, build a wall around the UK and take up the drawbridge. It fundamentally fails to take account of the reality in the world. I had help in researching the facts for this speech from an intern from my constituency who is British-born and studying at a university in the Netherlands and whose girlfriend is Romanian. This is what the modern world looks like. Supporting this deal would fail to recognise that we are living in an ever evolving, smaller world. The freedoms and opportunities available to young people to work and study abroad are unparalleled. This deal could dash their futures. As the Chancellor said about the referendum, people
“did not vote to become poorer”,
but that is exactly what will happen if we vote for this deal. I cannot and will not support the deal. It will make us worse off, it is wrong for the people of Enfield Southgate, it is wrong for the economy and it is wrong for the UK.