Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit threats to rights of migrant workers and students


Roland Erne: All European citizens have just been stripped of their European citizenship rights in Northern Ireland and Britain. Hence, no European right to vote in local elections, no European social rights (e.g. no European Health Insurance Card), and no European right to be treated equally anymore.



What a ‘success’ for the ‘internationalist’ pro-Brexit left of Britain and Ireland! As a result, European migration to the UK will be reduced significantly. But note, I mean student migration not labour migration.

If the UK fails to secure accession to the European Economic Area or a comparable bilateral agreement, the Erasmus student exchange programmes will come to an end. In addition, only the children of South and East European oligarchs will be able to pay the higher fees for ‘foreign’ students that British and Northern Irish universities will be able to charge, once the obligation to treat all Europeans equally will be revoked.

In turn, however, labour migration to the UK will not decline, as the opportunities to exploit European migrant workers will increase. Striping migrant workers of their European citizenship rights will make them even more vulnerable to exploitation and therefore more attractive for unscrupulous employers.

When migrant workers are left without social rights and lose their right to move freely between employers, however, not only Europe’s new bondage workers will suffer but also the local workforce, as demonstrated by the US example. Incidentally, the exclusion of the free movement of workers in the NAFTA agreement did not stop the race of US wages and working conditions to the bottom.

The only solution against social dumping lies in the better enforcement of national wage and labour standards, as achieved for example by the Swiss accompanying measures to the EU-Switzerland Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, as outlined in a recent Cambridge Journal of Economics article. This, however, requires joint mobilisations of both local and migrant workers.

Yet, why should migrant workers make common causes with local ‘internationalist’ colleagues when they will learn that they have actively supported those that want to strip them of their European civil, social and political citizenship rights? What a victory for the good old 'divide and rule' tactic!

Even so, not everything maybe lost. After all, Switzerland’s centre-right parties and employer associations only agreed to the flanking measures against social dumping when they had to learn – incidentally, after a lost referendum vote – that such measures are necessary to secure a positive outcome in a subsequent referendum on Switzerland’s association with the European Union.

Roland Erne is Associate Professor of international and comparative employment relations and director of the European Masters in Labour Studies programme at University College Dublin.

2 comments:

James Wickham said...

Roland,
Great blog but surely nobody has lost any rights yet - it depends on the UK parliament repealing the relevant legislation.
Notice incidentally how anti-European the UK suffrage is: citizens of any Commonwealth country who are legally resident in the UK have full voting rights including in referendums (the same applies to Irish citizens in the UK). By contrast citizens of other EU countries, however long they have been resident, have no votes for parliament or in referendums.
The pyromaniacs of the Leave campaign never of course commented on the fact that when the UK leaves the EU, the rights of the at least 1.2 million UK citizens living in other EU countries will be at risk.

Jim O'Donnell said...

"Switzerland’s centre-right parties and employer associations only agreed to the flanking measures against social dumping when they had to learn – after a lost referendum vote – that such measures are necessary to secure a positive outcome in a subsequent referendum on Switzerland’s association with the European Union"

This was a strategy that the Irish and European Left and Trade Unions resolutely refused to consider.
Having made the pro-integration leap in the late 80's, they considered themselves bound to support whatever treaty changes subsequently emerged, notwithstanding that they had been negotiated by the Right-wing in Europe, that they were more and more based on developing Europe by removing barriers and protection with the effect of undermining rather than adding to the gains of the 80's and 90's.
Naturally, they were taken for granted as "having nowhere else to go" as treaties and policies came and went.
It meant that in the absence of any real pressure for more Europe being needed for a better progressive Europe, the field was left to little nationalists, madder-populists, and the far right (Check out Eoin O Mhurchu on FB for some of these) to add the "left behinds" to their core constituency.
This was the Brexit constituency in a nutshell, created mostly by New Labour which was also the single element most responsible for the unchallenged progress of neoliberalism in Europe.
If Remain had won, we can be certain that the Tories and "moderate" Labour were going to demand even more regressive policies on the economy and migration - it's why I think Brexit removes an obstacle to a Europe which aims to offer protection to its citizens rather than one that insists that it must keep exposing them to risk "for their own good"!

EP President Schulz's speech yesterday does not offer much promise however! http://www.europarl.europa.eu/the-president/en/press/press_release_speeches/speeches/speeches-2016/speeches-2016-june/html/speech-at-the-european-council-by-martin-schulz

More of the same except good talk, at least, on tax dodging!
We live in hope!

Jim O'DONNELL