Frustration about immigration is about powerlessness

If we can have freedom of movement with Romania, why not with America? Really: why not? Immigration shouldn't be feared; it should be forged according to our will and our interests. The EU stops that

Immigration can be great. But we must be allowed to choose
Nicholas Rogers
On 4 January 2014 20:40

The first few days of 2014 have seen much hysteria over immigration. Reports of Eastern European hordes were greatly exaggerated and those promulgating them are now reduced to saying, ‘just you wait until the weather improves’.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the UK's parliamentary, Home Affairs committee, met some of the new arrivals – lucky them – on New Year’s Day. All of them expressed the same reasons for coming to Britain; they want to work hard and improve their lives. I believe them. Immigrants have been contributing to this country’s economy for hundreds of years.

However, the source of many people’s frustration with current immigration policy is our government’s powerlessness. Home Secretary Theresa May wants to cap the number of EU migrants but it’s unlikely to happen. While I am pro-immigration, I believe that a country must have the powers to make this kind of policy decision itself.

Were we free to set our own immigration policy, would we choose to have freedom of movement agreements with all the countries that currently enjoy those rights?

Unlikely. Freedom of movement, though, is a valuable thing. It allows people to transfer their skills and expertise around the globe, increases individual liberty and enriches the cultures of all nations who participate.

Given these benefits, I find it astonishing that consideration has never been given to signing a freedom of movement treaty with our closest and most valuable ally, the United States of America.

The USA is our second largest export market, our fourth largest import partner. We share a common language, have similar legal systems, and hold much in the way of common ancestry. We already marry each other, work in each other’s companies, and visit each other’s towns and cities on holiday.

British people use American companies every day and Americans do likewise. Our nations have been close friends for many decades.

It is therefore absurd that we make it so difficult for people to leave one country to live and work in the other. In the absence of a job offer it is nigh-on impossible for ordinary British people without hundreds of thousands in spare capital to move to America. Even international transfers within companies cost thousands and involve a complex legal process.

A freedom of movement agreement makes sense for both nations. Each would have unparalleled access to the talent pool of the other, with people free to work as the market required. We would have a new tool as we meet the challenge from rising economies such as China and India. The Special Relationship could only be strengthened through freedom of movement.

The typical arguments against immigration have little relevance to a UK/USA freedom of movement agreement. The similarities between Britain and America, particularly the English language, largely negate the cultural cohesion issue.

The ‘taking our jobs’ argument, weak at the best of times, is rendered meaningless when the economic benefits of even closer cooperation with our ally are considered. And freedom of movement between Britain and America is likely to be more of a balanced, two-way process than the current EU arrangements.

There have been few alliances in history as strong as that between Great Britain and the United States of America. Obama may be rather frosty, but our countries’ friendship is bigger and stronger than any one president. We work best when we work together.

If we can have a freedom of movement agreement with Romania, why not America?

Nicholas Rogers writes regularly for The Freedom Association and has previously written for ConservativeHome and the Local Government Association

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