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Home News The Freedom of Movement of Labour in Europe

Orange Alert and Red Lines

26 September 2013
Orange Alert and Red Lines

The Freedom of Movement of Labour in Europe

There is a debate unfolding on the centre-left about labour migration and the freedom of movement in the EU. In a recent column, the deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, Lodewijk Asscher, and UK commentator David Goodhart challenged the European centre-left to “think harder about how to make [Labour migration] work in the interests of all our citizens, not just well educated professionals.” They raise an “orange alert” around the negative consequences of the free movement of workers within the EU, arguing that defence of this fundamental principle needs urgent attention.

Given 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, as much of Europe faces-up to a living standards squeeze and jobs crisis.

Policy Network sets out to lead this debate over the coming months with a series of contributions on the Political Observatory. Andrew Geddes warns against blaming migration out front as it distorts from the root causes of today’s distributional conflicts. Alan Manning acknowledges the pressures on the political class to restore a sense of fairness, but argues that the debate on migration should be less about controlling the flows and more about managing the consequences. John McTernan, in a strongly-worded political response, lays out some tough red lines for the left on migration and the freedom of movement of labour in the EU.

Following on from the responses, Lodewijk Asscher contributed an essay to the Political Observatory as a means of furthering debate and outlining what drives his intervention. The essay is titled "Stopping Europe’s race to the bottom: Free movement, precarious jobs and the populist signal."

This debate is also the central theme in the Policy Network book by Elena Jurado and Grete Brochmann “Europe’s Immigration Challenge: Reconciling Work, Welfare and Mobility”.

Stopping Europe’s race to the bottom: Free movement, precarious jobs and the populist signal
The people of Europe face tough choices at the crossroads of our common European project. These choices require us to think about good morals
By Lodewijk Asscher

Migration and the economy: Distorting the distributional blame game
European governments of the left and right and the EU have all embraced – reluctantly or more enthusiastically – labour market and associated welfare choices that have shifted the distributional base of politics.  Blaming migration out front distorts the terms of debate.
By Andrew Geddes

No turning back: Managing the consequences of labour migration
To go back on the free movement of labour within Europe would be a major mistake. We would fail to solve the very real labour market problems many workers face and end up with a dysfunctional immigration policy as well.
By Alan Manning

The left has to get politically tough on labour migration
It’s time for the political left to draw some red lines on immigration and the freedom of movement of Labour within the EU.
By John McTernan

So much migration puts Europe's dykes in danger of bursting
In the Netherlands, an "orange alert" is issued when the country's rivers rise to alarming levels. The time has come to issue another kind of orange alert – one that warns about some of the negative consequences of the free movement of workers within the European Union.
By Lodewijk Asscher & David Goodhart

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