Brexit and Immigration

It is not true that the majority of British people voted for Brexit. Rather, 51.9% of people who voted voted for Brexit, 48.1% voted to remain. However, only 72.2% of people registered to vote actually turned out to vote in the referendum.
Also, certain people were not allowed to vote in the referendum:
  • 16 and 17 year olds;
  • EU nationals living in the UK;
  • British citizens living abroad.
By reference to the above chart, just under 27% of eligible people voted to leave the EU. Therefore, it is not “the will of the people”.
In addition, the ‘leave’ campaign was based on claims that have subsequently turned out to be false, e.g:
  • That £350 million would be spent on the NHS instead of the EU;
  • That Turkey would join the EU and that the UK could therefore expect a flood of migrants from Turkey;
  • That there were plans for an EU army;
  • That immigration would be curbed (this is unlikely given that the strength of the British economy relies upon it).
The Electoral Reform Society is also investigating spending anomalies in relation to undeclared spending.
Nevertheless, the Green Party recognises that Article 50 has been triggered and will seek to obtain the best deal for the British people, in particular:
  • Maintaining consumer protections;
  • Maintaining worker protections;
  • Maintaining environmental protections that safeguard the quality of our food, drinking water and air;
  • Minimising negative economic consequences (e.g. Job losses as firms relocate abroad, inflation resulting from a weaker pound and possible import tariffs).
Kent is particularly exposed to a ‘no deal’ or ‘hard Brexit’. The Freight Traders Association has estimated that a two minute delay at customers would equate to a 17 mile tailback; four minutes would be as far as Ashford; six minutes would reach the M25; and eight minutes would be at the Dartford Crossing and into Essex. On the other side of the channel, Calais authorities have predicted 30 mile queues, so as far as Dunkerque to the north, Boulogne to the south and St Omer inland. 10,000 lorries pass through Dover on average per day but, at present, only around 500 of these require customs checks.
The Green Party believes in the sovereignty of parliament and therefore demands that British elected MPs get to vote on the final Brexit deal.
When it comes to immigration, it is worth bearing in mind that the UK’s workforce comprises 31.6 million people. Of this, there are 5.4 million non-UK born workers, so around 17% of the workforce (as at June 2016). The Green Party believes that immigration is a positive influence on the UK economy and this is supported be research that shows that:
  • EU migrants are more likely to be in work than natives (participation rate = 80%). They actually claim fewer benefits compared to UK nationals;
  • Of non-EU migrants, 67% are in employment (because women from this group are less likely to work);
  • The skills that migrant workers bring have been paid for by their country of origin rather than the UK education system;
  • Unemployment as a whole has been falling;
  • Studies have shown that there is no correlation between local average wage growth and the local share of migrants in a local workforce (i.e. no evidence that migrants push down wages).
Certain industries rely heavily on migrant labour from which the UK benefits, such as:
  • The NHS (19% of NHS staff are non-British – 235,000 staff in total. 21% of nurses and 30% of doctors are non-British). There is a danger the NHS would collapse without these workers;
  • Food production – picking crops, food processing and packaging (that employers say ‘local’ people do not want to do);
  • Hotels and restaurants rely heavily on migrant labour and employers report a stronger work ethic;
  • Science and technology;
  • Construction industry (approximately 10% of construction workers come from abroad) and firms say they would be unable to complete construction projects without skilled migrant labour.
Foreign students contribute an estimated £11.8 billion to the UK economy. And the taxes paid by migrant workers are helping to fund the pensions of our older people. Migrant workers usually return to their country of origin to retire.
The tax benefits associated with migrant workers outweighs the financial cost that they place on local infrastructure and public services. Indeed, independent research suggests that for every £1 they cost, migrant workers contribute £1.34.
Other research suggests that immigrants boost national productivity by filling gaps in the labour market that would otherwise not be filled, which means faster GDP growth.