What those who want to remain in a reformed EU that lessens people’s insecurity must grasp is that Brexit voters don’t want an apology, they want policies to deal with their desire for managed migration. What is still inadequately understood is that the one upside of the grim rise of the extreme right across Europe since the referendum has been the increasing discussions in the EU about adapting free movement of people with measures to manage migration.
In our new report, The Progressive Case for Taking Control of EU Immigration – and Avoiding Brexit in the Process, on how Brexit can be reversed if progressives actively support these trends, we speculate that if Keir Starmer (on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn), Vince Cable and Caroline Lucas shared this analysis, they would prioritise seeking authentic agreement across the EU to properly acknowledge EU citizens’ concerns about migration. This would involve highlighting existing and proposing new measures to help “manage” migration. Then Brexit could be reversed.
I have nothing to apologise to Brian Forsdick for (Letters, 13 November). Britain is the cul-de-sac of Europe and has been absorbing immigrants for millennia, which is why this is such a fantastic country to live in – varied, diverse and innovative. I voted remain to keep my freedom to work, live and retire anywhere in Europe, which he sought to take away from me. Britain is better off forging alliances with our democratic neighbours – to strengthen our security, support our economy and develop international social, cultural and technological links – than seeking isolation. At a time when Europe is surrounded by wars and tensions fuelled by nationalism (from the Baltic states through to north Africa), closer “integration” is essential for our security and is even “the patriotic choice”.
But I lost; there is no barrier to Brexit as parliament has voted overwhelmingly to leave. It is not my fault that it isn’t happening. It is the government that seems to think it can retain the benefits and freedom of EU membership without also accepting the responsibilities that membership brings with it.
Leavers are talking nonsense when they complain that the powerful took the UK into an ever deeper relationship with the EU without consulting them. There were general elections roughly every four years, which is the normal way of consulting the people, and ever closer union is an aim stated at the beginning of the original EEC treaty. If the Brexit referendum has any benefit it is as a demonstration that direct democracy is a bad idea. If the relationship with the EU is difficult to escape, it is because it is the only sensible path to UK prosperity. EU membership has sustained the UK economy on a mostly upward path since the UK was the “sick man of Europe” in the 1980s.
If there is anything to apologise for it is allowing the creation of a benefits system that encourages people to think they can stay where they were born, waiting for someone else to bring them a car factory, or reopen mines, rather than easing their move to areas where jobs can be created. If new jobs most naturally arise in East Anglia, people in any English depressed area are much closer to them than people in Poland. Brexit or remain, the benefits system must be reoriented to helping people move to work, with infrastructure programmes aimed at supporting areas with a natural future, and evacuation of old industrial areas with no practical future.