Meet Pete: Europe’s new economic migrant

Kathleen Garnett

Not since the highly popular ITV series from the early 1980’s, “Aufwiedersehen Pet”, have low skilled British workers needed to go in search of jobs across Europe. Could all of that be about to change on 23 June 2016? Could it be that as Britain takes back control of her borders and withdraws her membership of the EU the predicted economic downturn could result in low-skilled British workers seeking employment in France, Germany and Greece? Could Pete from Preston become the new Polish plumber forced to leave his home in search of work, eager to be paid in euros as opposed to a worthless pound?

Nigel Farage is keen to point out that the British economy is the fifth largest economy in the world. According to the IMF he is right. The Vote Leave logic suggests that because Great Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy we can survive and prosper perfectly well, than-you very much, outside of the EU. There are many within the business community who agree with this view. Lord Bamford Chairman of JCB, whose company employs 6 500 people and which is valued in the billions not millions sent a letter to his workforce last week explaining that the British economy is strong enough to “stand on its own two feet”. It is hard to argue with a man who has managed to build such a successful company.

I do.

The reason why Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world is because the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union. Membership of the EU has granted us a huge amount of economic privileges and benefits which many other countries, including the US and Canada envy, would dearly like to have access to but are denied for the obvious reason they are not European. Withdraw from the club, cancel the fees and it is not exactly rocket science that access and privileges will be cancelled in return. You can’t decide to join a golf club, cancel the fees and expect access to the grounds every Saturday so you can improve you handicap. Both France and Germany have made it clear: cancelling the subscription fees and deciding to leave means just that. You chose to leave. No one forced you out. They will respect the right of the British voter and assume they were of sound mind when they made the decision. Although Boris Johnson has described the EU as an “empire” the EU is anything but. They are not about to impose martial law on the good citizen of Britain because they were so rude as to say no thank-you. What they can do, not unreasonably, is show us the door.

Without access to the benefits and privileges of membership there is every reason to believe that the British economy will plummet from fifth position to somewhere well below where it stands now. Perhaps where Poland ranks? Don’t believe me? Then perhaps you believe the assessments of the Bank of England, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the OECD and the Institute for Fiscal Studies all of which are quite convinced that Britain’s high economic ranking is down to our membership of the European Union. Take the EU out of the equation and the picture looks a lot more complex, messy and unsure.

Still not convinced that the British economy will nose dive in the event of a Brexit? Do you still believe it is just “project fear”? Scaremongering? Do you still believe that Great Britain will be able to seek grand new alliances with third countries outside of the EU? Look to the markets. They do not agree with you. The pound takes a hammering every time Brexit looks more certain. Should you vote to leave the cherished British pound will enter into a tail-spin and crash. The Euro will become the currency of choice not the pound. International investors like certainty and they like the EU. Brexit gives them neither. The pound will take a hammering and it will not recover soon.

A devalued pound would have a huge knock-on effect for the British economy. Consider this: Great Britain might indeed save money by no longer having to send money to Brussels. Boris Johnson’s 350 million smackeroons emblazoned across his bus, however, will be worth considerably less than it is today if the pound, as everyone predicts, takes a bashing. A devalued pound will mean that the British government has a lot less purchasing power to keep the NHS supplied and functioning at the same level it is today.

As the economy nose dives so too the amount of taxes the government can raise. The government will have no choice but to cut public services – from health to education, from transport to security, from cultural projects to defence spending. Public jobs as well as private jobs will have to be shed. Pensions both state and private will undoubtedly be affected depending on how far down the table the British economy slides and how much the pound is devalued.

Forget the sunny holidays in Spain, Portugal or Greece. The pound in your pocket will be worth the same next year as the Polish zloty is today or the Greek drachma was ten years before they joined the Euro making a family holiday abroad unaffordable.  A city trip to Paris, Rome or Berlin will become prohibitively expensive and complex. Only the likes of Lord Bamford will be able to enjoy such luxury.  Should you be able to save enough euros to go to France the chances are you’ll  have to face long delays since restricting access to a country works two-ways. If we seal off our border and take back control the EU will return the favour and make sure each and every Brit travelling into an EU country will have to show a visa proving they are a tourist and not an economic migrant.

Talking of which there will be no economic migrants to help support the NHS after a Brexit. Not because Johnson is going to take back control of our border but because the economic migrant will not even want to come. The economic migrant already in the UK will upsticks and move on. They didn’t come to Great Britain for the weather or our great sense of humour. They came because Britain is ranked the fifth largest economy in the world. Once that goes and the economy nose-dives the Polish, the Greeks, the Romanians, the Lithuanians, the Italians, German engineers, French restaurateurs etc. will all head off to where the economy is doing well and they can earn a living. The Brit, on the other hand, will not be able to follow them in search of work. Johnson now controls the border not the EU.  “They” don’t get in – but you don’t get out so easily either easily.

So where does Brexit leave you, your children or your grandchildren? Sovereign, free and stranded in a flat economy. Unemployed British workers, who loose their jobs because of the devalued pound and broken economy will not be able to find work in Europe. They will be deemed economic migrants and barred from entry in the same way Johnson and Gove will bar EU migrants from entering the UK. Our seven brickies featured in Aufwiedersehen Pet will no longer be allowed to hop on a ferry to Germany or Spain or Greece to find employment as a waiter, a brickie, an architect or even as a banker in Frankfurt, Europe’s new and thriving  financial centre. They will be hemmed in by Johnson’s hermetically sealed border swirling around a broken economy desperate to earn a living in a currency that offers them value and purchasing power.

If you do not want to become the new Polish plumber, Lithuanian fruit picker, or Greek waiter but with no country to migrate to then you should vote to remain on 23 June 2016. If you do not want to see your savings devalued or your pension undermined you should vote to remain on 23 June 2016. If you want to give your children a future where they can study, work and travel freely then you should vote to Remain on 23 June 2016. If you do not want Great Britain to become Europe’s new economic basket case then you should vote remain on 23 June 2016.

The alternative is not a broken Europe. It is a broken Britain.

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