In Britain, there are two kinds of immigration: EU citizens, and people coming from outside the EU.
Within the EU, freedom of movement is a reciprocal right. There’s an almost equal balance between the number of Brits in other countries and other Europeans in Britain. And those in Britain pay one third in more in tax than they take out in benefits and services combined. So internal EU freedom of movement is not really a problem in terms of numbers, nor cost to the exchequer. Where there are problems, they are things that our government could and should deal with: agencies only advertising jobs abroad not locally, undercutting wages, etc.
As for those who come from outside the EU, that’s under our own national rules, which we determine. But we are far better able to enforce those rules while we remain within the EU, for three reasons.
- We can maintain our border controls at Calais rather than Dover. This is an agreement with our EU neighbour, France, which means we can process arrivals before they reach the UK. If people arrived at Dover and then were found not eligible to come in, we would have the often difficult problem of deporting them — a problem which we avoid through our partnership with France.
- We can use the Dublin regulation — an EU agreement that asylum-seekers should be dealt with by the EU country in which they first arrived. You can waive that rule, if you want, as Germany has done recently. But Britain relies on it to send many asylum-seekers back to the EU country they first arrived in — some 12,000 since 2003.
- We are part of the EU’s system of cooperation among police and intelligence forces. This means we get information on certain people when they arrive, from fingerprints to criminal records. It also means cooperating to fight international gangs of people traffickers.
A main tactic of the Brexit campaign is to convince us that we should be terrified of immigration — they claim that we can’t control our own border while we stay in the EU. Don’t be fooled. We control it better.