Gale's View - 28/08/2019

August 28th 2019

 

The Office of National Statistics has jiggered and poked its figures for immigration from within the European Union. Long-term immigration from, particularly, the `EU 8` including Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, has been embarrassingly under-estimated by about a quarter of a million people.  This has led the ONS to downgrade its calculation from `national statistic` to `experimental` status. That does not deter the national `Daily Brexit` broadsheet from proclaiming that in spite of this increase net migration figures have fallen since 2015, ironically on Mrs. May`s watch, by about two thirds . The ` experimental estimate` generated by the ONS shows net migration now running at 59,000 a year.  This, it is said, is because the fall in the value of the pound makes working in the UK less attractive and because the economies of Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and other `EU 8`  Eastern European counties are now stronger.

 

This ought to be giving Ms. Patel, the Home Secretary, and indeed the whole  of Mr. Johnson`s Government, pause for thought: the  `dog-whistle` politics of the populist are not attractive at the best of times but notwithstanding stubbornly high unemployment in some areas – and East Kent is a case in point – we are in danger of facing serious labour shortages. Take out of the Health Service equation, for example, not only the  EU and Overseas physicians but the nurses and the vital ancillary staff that do the jobs that Brits will not touch and our three hospitals and many medical practices would come to a grinding halt.

 

Agriculture, also, is highly dependent upon imported labour. It is all very well citing the `seasonal workers scheme` but try selling that to a company like Thanet Earth that operates around the clock for three hundred and sixty five days of the year. They have tried to recruit local labour and have failed because harvesting crops by hand is hard and back-breaking work and not the kind of job if any to which local labour aspires. And a post-Brexit Britain is going to have to be much more reliant upon home-grown produce ( which also raises the issue of the loss of Grade 1 Agricultural land to development but we will park that for another day).

 

Then there are our hospitality and catering businesses. Where would they be and where would the wide variety of culinary choice  that the UK enjoys be acquired were it not for imported skills?  The `Australian Points System` to which we are continually being pointed may have some  merits and it may work ` Down Under` but it is not only `professional` and highly qualified` employees that Britain needs.  I hope that the Government Party of which I am a member has taken on board the message from even flawed statistics.

 

Next, in a `Dear Colleague` letter to MPs a Government Minister has again extolled the provision being made for the more than a million EU citizens who have already applied for `settled status` in the UK and for the further two and a half million yet to register. That is all nice and fine but what about the one and a half million ex-pat United Kingdom citizens currently resident within the remaining twenty-seven Member States of the European Union. The future of British subjects, many of whom have paid taxes and National Insurance contributions throughout their working live and some of whom have served in our Armed Forces and the Diplomatic Corps, ought, surely, to be our priority.  Yet there is, at present, no pan-European deal that guarantees the uprating of pensions, the continued payment of `exportable benefits` (such as Attendance and Carers` Allowance), guaranteed continued healthcare, freedom of domicile or freedom of movement. With or without a `Deal`, and my desire to see an agreement reached is a matter of longstanding record, we have to insist that equivalent generosity is shown towards British subjects as towards those from other EU nations  that we are clearly eager to embrace.

 

I would gently suggest that the path towards October 31st is likely to prove uphill, winding and rocky rather than a `walk in the park` although I take comfort from reminding myself and like-minded friends that Mr. Johnson has said that there is `a one in a million` chance of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.

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