EU Citizens as Bargaining Chips

pexels-photo-105470Virginia Mantouvalou, Reader in Human Rights and Labour Law and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, looks at the implications for Brexit on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights.

A few days after the referendum on EU membership of the European Union, Theresa May stated that she would not guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Her statements were supported by Philip Hammond, then the Foreign Secretary, who said that it would be ‘unwise’ or ‘absurd’ to guarantee rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK before negotiating with other Member States, and were also repeated in Parliament by James Brokenshire, the junior Home Office Minister. Mr Brokenshire was prepared to be slightly more reassuring, but only went so far as to say that there will be ‘no immediate change’ in the legal status of EU citizens in the UK. Many condemned this position as morally repulsive and politically problematic. In this piece I argue that the stance of the UK Government on the status of EU citizens in the UK may violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). European human rights law does not permit the treatment of people as bargaining chips. Continue reading

Migration, the lightning rod of the EU referendum

utaUta Staiger, Deputy Director of the UCL European Institute, argues that the EU-Turkey deal should have no role in the Brexit debate, yet it brings the crucial question of the European Union and migration into focus at an inopportune time.

Migration has not been out of the news in months. Net migration into Britain has never been higher, despite the prime minister’s promises to reduce numbers “no ifs, no buts”, and it consistently clings to the top spot in British voters’ list of priority concerns. Inextricably linked with EU membership, given the principle of free movement, it has become the touchstone of the Brexit campaign.

Arguably, however, migration today has found its most wretched visual symbol in the millions of people risking their lives crossing the Aegean in order to escape their war-torn countries of origin. And it has found its most troubling political symbol in the EU-Turkey deal, sealed on 18 March to stem precisely this flow. Continue reading

Unsettling times for a settled population? Polish perspectives on Brexit

sky-blue-flag-polandMany Poles have lived, worked, and settled in the UK for up to 12 years now. Anne White, Professor of Polish Studies at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, says it’s no longer so easy for them to pick up and leave. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

When I was asked to write a piece about Poles and other EU citizens living in the UK and their perspectives on Brexit, my first thought was that Polish people in the UK are little different from the millions of UK citizens living or travelling to work in other EU countries, or from French, German and other western Europeans living in Britain. All have equal reason to feel horrified by the prospect of Brexit. Continue reading

There’s no love for the EU or immigration, but voters must ask ‘what are the alternatives?’

Free movotersvement is part and parcel of continued access to European markets. Stephen Booth, co-director of Open Europe asks if it is worth sacrificing the latter to reduce the former? This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s second guest editor week on openDemocracy.

Given the recent political history of immigration in Britain, is it surprising that the issue now tops the political agenda and that public trust in politicians on this issue is so low? Throughout the 2000s, with looser policies on non-EU migration and EU enlargement to eastern Europe taking effect, net immigration to the UK increased from the tens of thousands to well over 200,000 a year. According to Ipsos-Mori’s issues tracker, just 10% of the British electorate considered immigration to be the most important issue facing the country in the late 1990s. By the mid-2000s, the share of people saying it was the most important issue steadily increased to 40%, and by May 2015 it reached 50%.

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A confident UK has nothing to fear from free movement of labour

B-E-Confident-UK

Migration brings net gains to the UK, and to hamper it would likely be as bad for British nationals as it would be for EU migrants, contends Ian Preston, UCL Professor of Economics and Deputy Research Director of the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM). This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s second guest editor week on openDemocracy.

Freedom of movement is at the core of arguments over Brexit. Not everyone in favour of Brexit is against free movement but polling evidence suggests that concern about immigration is strongly linked to support for EU withdrawal. Among the most common reasons given for voting Leave is the suggestion that it will restore British control over labour migration from European sources. By removing the country from the obligation to honour free movement of workers, it is suggested, it will make it possible to selectively and advantageously discourage immigration of less attractive sorts of workers.

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