17 Days Remaining

Friday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IT SAYS much about the Tory government that it should, in effect, welcome the departure of migrant workers from Britain’s shores in such stark and fulsome terms.

Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis greets as “good” news the slump in the surplus of immigrants over emigrants during the 2016-17 financial year, when 17,000 workers and their families returned to eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Those dashed hopes and shattered dreams mean nothing to him. So much for all that Tory claptrap about enterprise, hard work, self-improvement and doing the best for your family.

No doubt the words will go down well again at this year’s party conference in Manchester, as thousands of disappointed people try meanwhile to readjust to poverty and unemployment back in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and elsewhere.

Lewis and his Cabinet boss Amber Rudd see these people as merely statistics, a step towards the Tory aim of reducing net migration from last year’s total of 246,000 to below 100,000.

For decent human beings, on the other hand, these are workers and would-be citizens, who want to make a living and possibly a home here, enriching our economy, our culture and our society in the process.

No doubt, many of those who went back to their native countries last year did so because they could not find decent work or accommodation here.

Britain’s economy continues to teeter on the edge of stagnation, suffering from a chronic lack of investment in productive industry, technology, research and development, energy, public transport, infrastructure and housing. But others feared a rise in racism and xenophobia, especially in the wake of last year’s EU referendum decision.

In fact, some of them had already experienced hostility and concluded that enough was enough.

It should go without saying that the Morning Star and those many others on the left who campaigned against EU membership deplore racism and xenophobia of every kind. But reactionary views will not be combated effectively by misrepresenting the 17 million-plus people in Britain who voted to leave the EU as racists or xenophobes.

Most of these electors voted for the exit because they correctly see the EU an elite institution that does not represent them — undermining popular sovereignty in Britain.  

Many on the left also understand the big business character of the EU and voted accordingly.

Furthermore, by no means everyone who expresses concerns about the impact of super-exploited migrant workers on local employment and housing conditions is a racist or nationalist bigot.

It is no coincidence that Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU business advisory group is desperate to retain the free movement of labour across Europe so that the super-exploitation can continue.

No, the reality is that pro- and anti-EU politicians and the right-wing and Establishment media have been stoking up anti-foreigner feeling in Britain for decades, portraying asylum-seekers, refugees and migrant workers in almost wholly negative terms, as problems to be overcome. In this respect, pro-EU politicians such as Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron, Tony Blair and David Blunkett have been as culpable as John Redwood and Nigel Farage.

What is needed, therefore, is unity against racism and xenophobia across the EU divide; unity in favour of the many benefits brought to England, Scotland and Wales by those who come to work and live among us; and unity around a left-wing programme of policies to develop our economy, build more public-sector housing and ensure equal treatment for all workers regardless of nationality.