Leave Argument: EU membership delivers dangerous levels of migration
In 2015 net migration of EU citizens to the UK was 180,000. This was almost half of all net migration to the UK. Whilst immigration from non-EU countries has historically been larger, immigration from the EU has grown significantly. The process started in 2004, when eight Eastern European countries became EU members, and was exacerbated in 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania also became members. Unemployment in southern Europe, especially amongst younger people, has also played a role.
Critics have suggested that the large numbers of EU immigrants, mixed with few powers to stop them entering the UK, places excessive risk on the UK.
Lack of power
Britain cannot control the level of immigration coming from the EU. Free movement, expanded in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, means workers from EU countries have completely free access to the UK labour market, no matter how skilled they are. To keep the immigration level lower, Britain has to be very selective of workers coming from outside the EU, imposing tight restrictions on even highly skilled workers. This means Britain cannot select the workers that will contribute the most to the economy if it wants to restrict overall net migration. Leaving the EU would let Britain alter the flow of immigration and choose which workers are best for the economy.
Unemployment & lower pay
Because wages are much higher in Britain compared to most of the EU, most EU immigration is work-related. During the end of 2015, 2 million EU nationals (excluding Britons) were employed in Britain. Some critics suggest that the large influx of EU workers is making more British people unemployed. A study by the Home Office in 2014 showed that EU migration can cause job losses amongst British workers if there is an economic downturn and net migration is high. EU immigration probably caused job losses amongst British workers during the economic downturn.
EU immigration can also have a significant impact on the wages of specific British workers. There is evidence that competition from EU immigrants may result in lower wages for low skilled workers. Production workers and semi/unskilled service workers are most at risk.
Pressure on public services
Large levels of migration are placing strains on Britain’s public services, especially schools and hospitals. Partly due to EU immigration, by the academic year 2018/19 three-fifths of primary schools in England will have a shortage of places. Some schools will need to provide support for migrant children via translation services and additional teachers for those whose first language is not English. Because of austerity measures, the funding is not available for some of these extra resources.
There are also more people for the NHS to care for. In 2013 it cost the NHS £260 million to treat visitors and non-permanent residents from the European Economic Area (EEA). While most migrants in the UK are of working age and therefore likely to be more healthy than the UK average, they do place specific demands on the health service. In theory the NHS can charge their home states this cost, but seldom does due to administrative difficulties.
The influx of immigration from the EU, mixed with a lack of integration, is arguably damaging British culture. One in three people believe tension between people born in Britain and immigrants is a major cause of division. Over half regard it as one of the top three causes. Critics suggest that some ethnic groups isolate themselves from British society, not wanting to take part. Speaking and understanding English is also important for cultural integration. Across the whole population, 2% of immigrants do not speak English well and 8% do not speak it as a first language.
The high rate of immigration is also making it harder for police to tackle terrorism. According to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, police officers working with communities to combat radicalisation found it difficult to communicate with so many new populations.
In Britain house prices and rents have risen faster than incomes, putting downward pressure on people’s living standards. According to the UK Department of Communities and Local Governments (DCLG), the current level of EU immigration will require 46,000 new homes a year, which is 20% of all household formation in England. Because house building has stalled, high levels of immigration will push up the demand for housing, increasing house prices.
Britain is already overcrowded. If EU migration continues on its current path, the UK will have a much larger population than would otherwise be the case. Excluding island and city states like Singapore, England is the eighth most crowded country in the world, nearly three and a half times as crowded as France and twice as crowded as Germany.
A higher population will place strains on the national infrastructure, especially in the most populous parts of Britain. In 2012 the 10 most overcrowded peak rail services, all going to London, were between 49% and 65% over capacity. There are also environmental concerns. A larger population will tend to cause more pollution, depending on the energy make up of a country. Between 1991 and 2009, as a direct result of net migration, greenhouse gas emissions from the UK increased by almost 190 million tonnes of CO2.