“We cannot allow free movement to carry on as it is” - Theresa May, UK Prime Minister
While the UK referendum has come and gone, it could be years before EU relations are fully dismantled and we can literally consider ourselves ‘out of the EU’. Of course, the referendum is not the only potential exiting that people should be concerned with. Another heavily debated issue – further amplified by the vote – is immigration. Not only in regards to the UK’s future stance on immigration, but the status of migrant workers currently living in the UK.The question of whether immigrant workers remain in the UK or not after the actual Brexit is one that’s yet to be clearly answered. Vague expressions in public statements haven’t helped the lack of clarity. For example, May (then Home Secretary) previously stated:
The Brexit vote gave us a very clear message that we cannot allow free movement to carry on as it is.
Obviously, the sentence carries the implication of impending change, but to what extent?
Given the scale and long-term implications of the outcome, it’s understandable that politicians and leaders cannot provide an immediate answer. But is it right for migrant workers to spend the next two years fretting about whether they will lose the right to call the UK home?
Over the decades, immigration has steadily risen in the UK, and the country has welcomed people from across the world, giving them opportunities to thrive and contribute to society. As a consequence of Brexit, these workers could lose their right to live and work in the UK.
If such a motion was passed, those most affected would be long-term migrant workers with established lives, many of whom have families here and have crafted bright futures for themselves, bringing value to the workplace. This motion could jeopardize those futures and everything they have worked hard to create.
Of course, passing the motion would have a two-way effect. The Research Foundation has published a report identifying the 10 employment sectors most heavily reliant on migrant workers. For example, 31% of the food manufacturing sector is made up of migrant workers. We don’t know how suddenly removing migrant workers from the UK would impact these sectors, but is it a risk we are prepared to take?
Another point of consideration is that roughly 1.2 million UK citizens have immigrated to countries that are part of the EU, where they have been given the chance to prosper and provide something to their new homes. Then Immigration Minister James Brokenshire listed this as a consideration point when clarifying why an immediate answer to UK immigration was not on the cards.
Even if such a decision cannot be released at this time, then at the very least, leaders can ensure that the information people receive is clear. Workvine understands and appreciates the value of clarified, accurate information and feel this is the key to moving forward in increasingly unclear times.
Despite the union divide, our relationship with migrant workers who call the UK their home is vital now more than ever. As a union we may be divided, but do we want to be divided as a society?