It has surprised the naïve that in the last two weeks Tory ministers have been lining up to assure employers that there will be no reduction in the flow of immigrant workers into
the UK after Brexit.
There are two things that infuriate me about the “left wing” argument that EU immigration lowers wages in the UK through importing labour. Firstly it is not left wing at all, it is narrowly nationalist and founded on the protectionist premise that the condition of the worker in say Poland – who would benefit both from opportunities in the UK and from international labour competition elevating wages there – does not matter. The “left wing” proponents of the protected national labour market are actually just ill-disguised racists.
The second criticism of these “left-wing” people is that they are extremely stupid. Anybody who believes that the plutocrat paymasters of UKIP, the Tories and the corporate press, supported Brexit in order to raise wages, is certifiable.
That is why the Tories are making plain there will be no reduction in the labour supply from the EU. That will keep coming. But there will be one essential difference.
EU workers will no longer be in the UK as fellow EU citizens with exactly the same rights as UK EU citizens. In future, the EU workers will be here on work visas, probably two or five year renewable. These will be awarded through sponsorship by their employer. That will put them at the absolute mercy of employers and make them terrified of complaint or even standing against gross abuse and illegality. The conditions at the Sports Direct warehouse will seem good compared to what is coming in workplaces throughout the UK, once people like Mike Ashley can simply have “troublemakers” instantly deported.
All workers will of course lose more formal rights and protections, like the maximum working week and strict health and safety regulation. EU citizens in the UK will also lose the citizen’s right of address by political participation and voting.
Brexit will lower wages. It will be the biggest license to exploit ever handed back to predatory capitalists, at a time when the wealth gap between the super rich and the poor is at its widest, and notions of social responsibility among the wealthy at their weakest.
Brexit is a disaster for the working woman and man. Yet so many of the so-called “left” are too blind to see it.