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Night owl debate ~ Labour and immigration: The freedom of movement in Europe

  • Date(s)
    28 September 2015
  • Time
  • Location
    Beachview Restaurant, 135 Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2HX
Night owl debate ~ Labour and immigration: The freedom of movement in Europe

David Cameron’s EU reform agenda has opened a heated debate on the centre left about labour migration and the freedom of movement in the EU. On one hand, it is argued that free movement is a net contributor to the UK economy, a fundamental right within Europe and a central part of the EU project. The focus should be less about controlling the flows, more about managing the consequences of migration, and on reversing labour market and welfare choices that have disadvantaged low-wage workers. On the other hand, it is argued that Labour has to think much harder about how to make Labour migration work in the interests of all citizens, not just well-educated professionals. Blind defence of this fundamental principle might be risky as labour migration is severely undermining support for Europe in traditional Labour constituencies. Rational arguments are not enough, perceptions and sentiments of insecurity related to EU migration need to be addressed.

Given the upcoming EU referendum, the dim electoral prospect of the European centre left, and the rise of populist competitors on the left and right, this debate is an important one for it touches on both the future of EU integration and the thorny issues of work, welfare and immigration.

  • Should Labour make a principled defence of EU free movement or should it present it as a problem?
  • Which changes in UK domestic legislation could address public concerns about EU migration and change the electorate’s perception?
  • Is a reform of free movement at EU level realistic without treaty change?
  • Should Labour adopt a more generous stance on asylum seekers as a way to resolve the crisis in Calais?

Stephen Booth, co-director, Open Europe

Rosa Crawford, lead policy officer – migration, TUC

David Goodhart, editor at large, Prospect Magazine and author of The British Dream
John McTernan, commentator and political strategist

Ania Skrzypek, senior research fellow, Foundation for European Progressive Studies

Chair: Renaud Thillaye, deputy director, Policy Network

Partner: FEPS

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