Saturday, 24 August 2013

eu reform treaty
Does Labour want to change the EU treaties to guarantee 'British ...

... think-tank with offices in London and Brussels campaigning for EU reform... EU treaty change to allow for more discrimination on basis of nationality?

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Does Labour want to change the EU treaties to guarantee ‘British jobs for British workers’?

In his much-criticised speech on immigration today, Chris Bryant said he wouldn't “deal with the wider aspects of [EU] free movement”. In fact, almost his entire speech is about the wider aspects of free movement – and he provides very few answers.
Part of his speech addresses the issue of exploitation, such as when companies break the law by not paying the minimum wage, and the failure of UK authorities to prosecute such breaches (which is aboutenforcement, not the rules themselves). Of course, this should looked at.
But the thesis of his speech – and this has generated the most buzz – concerns one of the most fundamental aspects of EU membership: the principal inability within the EU to discriminate on basis of nationality. Let’s be honest about this. There’s no way under EU law to ensure that British companies hire British workers for "British jobs". The questions are, first, whether this is a good thing and second, if not, what should be done about it.
Bryant is confused on both questions.
He talks generally about the “contribution” made by immigrants, but on specifics, zeroes in almost exclusively on the drawbacks of EU migration (keeping wages down, etc). As a “passionate believer” in EU membership, would Bryant argue that access to a larger pool of workers helps to keep down prices for consumers, for example?
He also seems to be claiming that EU free movement actively creates unemployment in the UK (“The biggest complaint I have heard… is about the negative effects migration can have on the UK labour market. And I agree.”). This is far from clear. Though settled workers can be crowded out (which is a legitimate concern), EU migrants tend to take jobs natives workers would not go for. Unemployment in the UK has remained stubbornly over one and a half million for most of the last decade (pre-dating the 2004 EU enlargement), despite at least three million jobs being created.
But it’s Bryant's "solution" that is the most confused. He acknowledges there’s nothing “illegal” about hiring foreign workers over UK ones, but says it’s “unfair” for UK firms not to do their utmost to recruit locally first. That may be the case, but if a company hires local workers solely on basis that they’re local, again, this breaches EU law. So is Bryant encouraging companies to violate EU rules? He has a point that UK companies should not de facto discriminate against UK workers either (for example via a Polish-language-only recruitment website), but he seems to go further than that.
He suggests that “the EU itself should consider migration in the round and rather than always axiomatically try to encourage greater mobility… we should be working within Europe to get the sensible reforms we need to make migration fair for all”.
I have no idea what this means. Should Brussels impose a demand-based test for when EU free movement should be allowed, sort of central planning? An EU-wide minimum wage? EU treaty change to allow for more discrimination on basis of nationality?