FEPS and Policy Network fringe at the Labour Party Conference.
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 and more about managing the consequences of migration – and on reversing labour market and associated 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 needs urgent attention 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.
Stephen Booth, co-director, Open Europe
Rosa Crawford, lead policy officer-migration, TUC
David Goodhart, chair, Demos and editor-at-large, Prospect Magazine
John McTernan, commentator and political strategist
Ania Skrzypek, senior research fellow, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
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