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