This seems to be a popular topic at the moment, what with Labour and the Tories both promising to get tough on the issue, and old permatan setting up a new party almost entirely based on a desire to have less foreigners in the UK. It’s not a debate I have any particular desire to get into, as it’s overly complex and has many high emotions attached to it. However, the always good Berlin Sprouts has pointed out the contradictory nature of current European immigration policies, so this may be of interest.
In short, here is (part of) the problem which needs to be addressed. Again – I stress – this is overly simplified and I have no desire to get into a debate about this, as to be honest it’s not an issue I see as important, even though others evidently do:
- For the European market to work effectively, the unimpeded transfer of goods and people is vital.
- The unimpeded transfer of people necessitates looser border controls within the EU – fewer passport checks etc.
- Looser border controls within the EU can be exploited.
- Therefore, outward-facing borders need to be tightened to prevent misuse of internal harmonisation.
- Additionally, individual member states need to harmonise immigration and – especially – naturalisation policies (to prevent one state’s soft attitude being exploited by immigrants from outside the EU who can become EU citizens easily in one part of the Union and then migrate freely to another).
- If Spain offers amnesty to its illegal immigrants the risk comes that they can then travel freely to any other part of the EU – including countries which would not have allowed them entry of choice.
- This can then undermine national anti-immigration policies – such as those being proposed by Labour, the Conservatives and others in an attempt to win popular xenophobic support in the upcoming elections.
The current EU immigration system is a half-measure – ease of travel within the EU has been sorted out, but wider issues of how to deal with external migration remains dealt wtih on a state by state basis. But by its very nature, immigration is a trans-national problem. Surely it is better to deal with it on a trans-national basis?
The United Kingdom has over 10,500 miles of coastline – it is impossible to police it all. As most immigrants get to the UK via the European mainland, it makes sense to have an agreement with other EU member states – preferably a firmly binding one because (let’s face it), it’s far easier and more appealing to allow migrants to pass through your own country to get to another than it is to waste time and money dealing with them yourself.
The current EU-wide immigration system is not working. Hence Article III of the proposed constitution.
- Article III – 168 of the new constitution proposes to harmonise immigration proceedures across EU states – including harmonisation of proceedures governing entry, residence, the granting of long term visas and residence permits, and “illegal immigration and unauthorised residence, including removal and repatriation of persons residing without authorisation”
- Article III – 166 proposes new systems to harmonise regulation of the EU’s external borders.
- Annex B also maintains the opt-out of Britain and Ireland from the free internal travel agreements.
- There are also proposals for EU border guards to cut down on immigration.
With EU help, all the fuss about illegal immigrants coming across the Channel via boats and the Chunnel could become a thing of the past. Immigration issues would also be covered by Qualified Majority Voting ensuring that – unlike with the current system – that minority of EU countries (like Spain) which have fairly liberal attitudes to foreign migrants would no longer be able to bugger up the plans of countries (such as Britain and Germany) who want to implement stricter controls.
See? Further integration can be useful.