That is precisely my point. If that drop in numbers continued for more than a few years, the health service and other caring sectors would have a serious problem. It is not simply EU citizens but all migrants—all new Scots—who deliver benefit to our country. I will concentrate a little more on EU and European economic area citizens, but I will shortly move on to the contribution made, and the problems faced, by people from beyond the European Union who come here, either permanently or for short visits.
We should be thankful to the Government for the publication of “EU Exit: Long-term economic analysis”, which puts a hard GDP number on the benefit from EEA migration. We know that Brexit is bad economically, but every single non-EEA Brexit scenario modelled, including no deal, average free trade agreement, and the now lost and forgotten Government White Paper, was worse with a zero net inflow of EEA workers—around 2% of GDP worse over the forecast period. Net zero EEA migration has a hard-number impact; we know that, as do the Government, because they published it.
No one who cares about the economic wellbeing of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or the UK as a whole should ever embark on a hostile environment policy that makes it difficult for people to come to the UK, or that in any way, shape or form stops EEA citizens living or working here, yet that is precisely what the Government have done, and it is not only EEA citizens who suffer.
I will give two brief examples of the unnecessary and arbitrary obstacles faced by people who wish to live here permanently or make a short visit. The first is of a South African lady who married a Scottish man who lived and worked in South Africa more than 15 years ago. They moved to Scotland. The lady travelled initially on a tourist visa, but was told that she had to go back to South Africa, where they no longer had a home, job or income, to apply for a UK visa. That obviously caused distress, and had a significant financial cost to a household with modest earnings. Forcing that lady to return to South Africa to apply for a visa that would allow her to live in Scotland with her husband delivered absolutely no benefit to the UK. It was a nasty, pointless, arbitrary and unnecessary pieces of hostile bureaucracy that could be changed tomorrow if this Government cared anything for the people who live here.
The second example I wish to give is of a very successful Pakistani gentleman. He travels regularly overseas and has never overstayed on a visa in any country. Indeed, on his last visit to the UK, he left after only a couple of weeks, having visited all the friends and family whom he wished to see, which was the reason for his stay. Even though he had an excellent sponsor and an exemplary record from previous visits, his last visa application was rejected—and not on what you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I or a reasonable person would consider real grounds; he was told, wrongly, that he did not have
“enough incentive to leave the UK on completion of” his
Indefensible! That arbitrary judgment was handed down by some bureaucrat in the absence of any evidence whatever.
Weddings and funerals are missed, and family relations are destroyed, because of ludicrous, arbitrary decision making. If these decisions were made by some tin-pot despotic country, we would all rightly say, “That’s appalling. The rule of law has been abandoned in favour of arbitrary decision making.”