IMMIGRATION: THE SHOCK AWAITING MIDDLE CLASS LIBERALS

KEN HOUSTON

Immigration, which seems to have become the biggest referendum issue of all, is less controversial in Scotland because the effect has not been as great as in England.

But whatever side of the Border, immigration seems to be largely of concern to (small ‘c’) conservative blue collar voters.

Middle-class liberals are generally happy with the current situation because it has hardly touched them and indeed may even be advantageous in terms of keeping down the going rate for nannies, cleaners, gardeners and other hired help.

Thus they cannot see why the lower orders are making such a fuss and conclude that it’s all down to low-level racism.

EU immigration only became a political hot potato in this county after the ‘new accession’ countries – Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic States, Romania and Bulgaria – became members. To be fair, this was not the fault of Brussels because our government was within its rights to delay access to these new EU citizens for seven years but chose not to do so.

Given that the UK offered earnings four of five times greater (and access to vastly superior welfare benefits), it is hardly surprising that nearly two million (over one million of them Poles) have arrived in just a few years.

This raises a vital question that tycoons or vested-interest politicians who praise ‘free movement’ as a two-way process never want to answer: just how many British people have emigrated to the aforementioned countries in the same period?

Except for a handful moving for family reasons or the love of a woman, I would say the answer is ‘virtually zilch’.

Of course, most EU immigrants to the UK are responsible and conscientious people – that’s why they turn up for work on time and get stuck into their tasks, unlike some native applicants who only apply for jobs so as not to risk having their benefits stopped.

However, many are also of above-average intelligence and won’t be prepared to pick fruit, clean toilets or wait on tables in perpetuity. Among them (or their children) will be those who will want to start their own businesses, which go beyond Polish cafes or Slovakian delicatessens.

This will see them compete in the conventional market and without economic growth (by no means guaranteed) the result will be a reduction in average earnings among start-ups – or more of the riskier ones going to the wall.

If not starting a business they will aspire to be sales or production executives, lawyers, IT specialists, accountants, lecturers, teachers – or carve out a profitable career in the media, which in Scotland is particularly dewy-eyed about immigration and immigrants themselves.

So should the UK vote to stay and continuing EU immigration starts to provide competition for THEIR jobs, middle-class liberals might start adopting a less smug attitude towards their lower-earning countrymen.

A NEW NAME FOR EXPORTS?

The late surge in the polls for Brexit has heightened fears about threats to exports among the business community and, by implication, to the balance of trade figures among Clan Cameron and the political establishment.

But should the forthcoming vote produce a result to ‘Remain’, for how much longer will goods sold to other EU member-countries be accurately described as ‘exports’ given the grey area about how much EU member-countries share the same jurisdiction?

With EU law now taking precedence in about 60 per cent of legal edicts, all the big economies (Britain excepted) sharing a common currency, and discussions underway about a pan-Europe health, social security and fiscal policy, the EU is already more than halfway to becoming a federal nation-state, just like the USA or Canada.

In fact, across the Pond, in many areas individual US states are more free to act independently of Washington than EU countries are to act free of Brussels/Strasbourg.

Consequently, the time may come when goods produced in Scotland and sent to southern France are no more ‘exports’ than they would be if the customers were based in Surrey or Sussex.

HISTORICAL COMPARISONS

One reason Scots are more likely to vote to remain in the EU than the English is that Scotland has had more symbiosis with Europe than its southern neighbour.

For example, shortly after his victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297, William Wallace sent emissaries to the Hanseatic League in Hamburg with a message that effectively said: ‘Scotland has re-opened for business.’

In the debates preceding the Union of the Parliaments, the prominent anti-unionist, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, declared that Scotland had become too reliant on England as an export market and called more trading links with continental countries.

And he had a point. A light merchantman could, with a good wind, be in Veere in Holland within two days of leaving Leith. By contrast, the overland journey between Edinburgh and London took five times as long.

When the Act of Union was passed Fletcher resigned from politics in despair and devoted the remaining nine years of his life to agricultural and business interests, introducing new methods of grain production, learned in Holland, to his native East Lothian. He was convinced that Scotland had much to gain from Europe, not just in trade but also in innovation.

As a pro-European and free marketer, Fletcher would undoubtedly have been enthusiastic about Scotland joining, albeit as part of Great Britain, what in 1973 was the European Economic Community – packaged at the time as no more than a free-trade area.

But 43 years on, given what the EEC has become, he would have been equally keen to leave.

And finally…

So, with just two days to go let this last word be in Scotland’s three languages, English, Scots and Gaelic – Leave! Depairt! Falbh!

Twitter: @PropPRMan

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