welfare and public services
The latest news coverage on the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU is indicating that David Cameron expects to finish his efforts at renegotiation and that a vote might take place as early as June. MRN doesn’t expect to be getting involved in the big questions of whether the EU overall has been good or bad for Britain but we will be setting out our views on one issue that many think lie at the heart of this vexatious question: the right to freedom of movement.
Before the Christmas break I attended several discussions about the EU referendum on behalf of MRN as one question seemed to be particularly challenging for both the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps: "What should we say about immigration?"
My provisional take is that it will come to be seen as the year in which the movement of people into and out of the country became finally and indissolubly Europeanised. There are circumstances in which we could easily imagine this to be a good thing, with progressive, forward-thinking governments working together to see how the movement of people is going to play its role in promoting sustainable growth and the welfare of populations, while at the same time cementing human rights and fairness right the way across the system.
For anyone following the debate on the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 since its introduction in September, the latest debate in the House of Commons provided few surprises and might even have felt repetitive both in content and outcome. Scottish Nationalist MP Stuart C. McDonald set the tone for the debate by declaring that the bill was 'ill-conceived and regressive'. Its main purpose, he said, is to make the Government look tough on immigration to supporters disappointed by it failure to hit the ‘tens of thousands’ target for net migration by 2015. The discussion then moved between considering amendments to specific provisions in the bill and questioning its general premise and purpose. Civil Society Arguments Most of the challenges to the Bill echoed the concerns raised by civil society groups about the impact of the bill on the rights of:
December’s changes to the electoral register represent a huge civil rights issue for everyone in this country, especially for migrant communities. In November, the UK government cut the transition period for the new electoral registration (IER) system. Many were hopeful that the government would listen to its own independent expert body and extend the date to December 2016. This would have allowed local authorities to properly inform people of the need to get themselves on the register. Unsurprisingly, the proposal was not accepted leaving at least 1.9 million people at risk of losing their right to vote if not registered by the 1 December 2015.