Brexit: Migration, or the Single Market?

The dilemma is becoming clear: do we choose immigration, or the single market? Theresa May has already accepted that UKIP’s ‘Points system’ would not work, and losing access to the Single Market would hamper Britain’s trade relations with less prosperity as a result. But if we retain the benefits of the single market, the promises which produced a 70% Brexit vote in places like Scunthorpe will have to be ditched. I may deal with the case for a referendum re-match in a future blog.

I have read several attempts to explain why immigration must be controlled in the ecological context. Some offer positive suggestions, but no one appears to think the Citizens’ Basic Income has a part to play.

This link to David Flint’s blog, is the most succinct résumé I have seen, but a thoughtful analysis is offered by Sarai Sarkar , a Bengali resident in Germany, which makes it difficult to accuse him of racism. Also Eugene Odum offers a way of addressing immigration without ‘immigrant-bashing’.

Another problem to which my attention has been drawn is the increasing pressure to claim bogus refugee status, such is the growing resistance to purely economic migrants. My thinking these days is heavily influenced by having read ‘The Political Brain’ by Drew Westen – overwhelming rational arguments are powerless against emotion.

This is the serious weakness in the ‘open borders’ stance. If there is insecurity, and currently there is, many will feel threatened by ‘swarms’ (if that is what it feels like to them) of immigrants, and arguments that this concern is misplaced, or morally wrong, whether cogent or not, are neither here nor there. Whoever offers exclusion will always win. Again, whether the proposals would work is irrelevant.

For 43 years I have been trying to combine social justice with ecological realities. To those who take the latter problem less seriously, the notion of limiting population increase is something only ‘Fascists’ advocate. Unfortunately any discussion of migration suffers the same misplaced criticism.

All of which leads me to see the need for something which will enable desperate people not to uproot themselves. Just as I have been waiting 43 years for a better idea than the Citizens’ Basic income as a means to enable individuals everywhere to contemplate an economy without growth, perhaps someone will think of a better way of persuading people to stay where they are.

My main criterion for the Basic income is that it must be enough to allow an individual not to need to do anything to damage the ecosphere (though it should not be more than that). In the migration context, it must enable a person not to need to migrate. Migration as an unforced choice will remain. It should be remembered that migration to a first world urban environment from the developing world, or to a lesser extent from eastern Europe, inevitably involves a greater ecological footprint.

The Basic income principle is bedevilled by immigration anyway. One possible scenario is to give it in full to legal immigrants from day one. The majority will. as now. pay more than the Basic income in tax. But if illegal immigrants still arrive in unknown numbers, will they find low paid work (illegal of course) thus undermining the labour market? If there is a waiting period, are they allowed to look for low paid work – in competition with locals who objected to their arrival in the first place? Bear in mind that if a Living Wage is in force, jobs will be limited in number. If it isn’t, it will be the immigrants who need all the newly possible jobs at low hourly rates, not the best recipe for harmony.

There is already a movement for a Europe-wide Basic income. This will relieve the problem just outlined. the Basic Income needs to be a world-wide concept anyway. It need not be uniform everywhere. In Namibia  the equivalent of less than £2 per week meets the above criteria, and even in eastern Europe, it would not need to be as high as in Britain or Germany.

Internally within one country, although the Basic income will be redistributive, the better off will remain better off. In the same way, nations wishing to discourage immigration will need to subsidize such an international scheme, but again, rich nations will remain much richer.

How much? A good question. I wish someone grappling with the problem of immigration was asking it. Until they do, the consequences of the increasing pressures driving migration will lead to increasingly nasty results, not necessarily cheaper. Without something positive to help desperate people in situ, the emotionally driven outlook is as inevitable as it is deplorable.

There is of course a can of worms which will have to be opened sooner or later, but not too much later. A guaranteed, unconditional sum of money so that you need do nothing to damage the ecosphere involves numbers. Perhaps we must kick that particular can down the road for now.

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