With the vote on the UK’s ongoing membership of the European Union imminent, it’s clear that the Leave campaign is focused almost entirely on immigration.
All this is rather curious given the recent stance of two of Leave's most prominent (and vocal) supporters, Boris Johnson MP and Michael Gove MP. The former claimed in 2013 that he was probably the only UK politician willing to say he was pro-immigration, and the latter – only a year ago – that further immigration was essential for the NHS. It is clear that this issue is being manipulated by people who don’t even believe what they say.
No country can open its borders to the world and none do. Whilst the EU allows free movement of goods, capital and people, the number of EU migrants last year - from the other 27 EU member states from France to Finland, Ireland to Italy and Portugal to Poland - was 145,000 or one for every 450 UK citizens. By comparison non-EU migration, where the UK can choose to exclude anyone it wishes, was 188,000. Indeed, EU migration has been lower than non-EU in each of the last 25 years. And whereas two thirds of EU migrants came to work, only a third of non-EU migrants do.
EU migrant labour is not so much desirable as essential in keeping cherished UK institutions and organisations running. For example, 11% of all staff working in the NHS and community health services are from the EU; a trend consistent irrespective of the type of work, whether it is professionally qualified clinical staff or those in support roles. Migrants are so intrinsic to the health service that the British Medical Association said without it, the NHS in England would struggle to provide effective care to patients.
In agriculture and hospitality EU migrants eager to work, undertake jobs that UK citizens simply won’t do.
What’s more, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs made it clear that EU migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. This is fairly obvious, given the majority are young, fit, often well-educated and come to the UK without dependents, such as children or elderly parents. By contrast, many UK citizens who emigrate to the EU, where more than 2.2 million reside, are retirees living in Spain, Portugal, France etc.
Membership of the EU affords us the right to work, study and travel freely in Europe. A vote to leave the European Union removes that right.
It is estimated that EU tariff-free trade has provided around 300,000 jobs in Scotland.
Scottish exports to Ireland alone are worth £1,125 annually, while the turnover of Irish businesses here in Scotland is over £2,500 million, supporting nearly 6,000 jobs, including Highland Meats in Stevenston. More Scotch is sold each month in France than cognac in a year. Food and drink accounts for 18% of Scottish exports, with three of our top 5 markets in the EU.
Let us never forget too, that the EU has helped to secure Europe's longest ever period of peace, having been born following WW2 to promote prosperity, stability and collaboration and has been of fundamental importance in restoring democracy to post-Fascist countries such as Spain and Portugal, and post-Communist nations like Poland and the Czech Republic.
Why risk the economic benefits, shared values, stability and prosperity our membership of the EU brings? Vote Remain on Thursday.