Monday, 16 December 2013

Nick Clegg's confused and downright dishonest rhetoric on EU migration

Here's a quote for anyone that is still labouring under the delusion that Nick Clegg isn't a Tory in all but tie colour:

"With my enthusiastic support in this coalition government, we are instituting new restrictions on the ability of people who come from other EU countries to access benefits on the first day they arrive, no questions asked."
There is absolutely no evidence that this happens. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that it doesn't. You only need the faintest understanding of how the benefits system actually works to know that it is literally impossible to access benefits without answering an awful lots of questions. So to imply that it is possible for anyone at all to claim benefits without answering any questions is an outright lie. A lie clearly designed to stir up anger against immigrants.

One of the main elements of this "no benefits for immigrants" policy that Nick Clegg "enthusiastically supports" is a plan to ban immigrants from claiming working tax credits for five years. This is quite clearly discriminatory stuff, given that the existence of working tax credits are an open admission that the poverty wages paid in the UK simply aren't enough to sustain working people and their families. Why should a hypothetical hardworking Belgian that has lived, worked and paid tax in the UK for four straight years be made to live on a poverty income, way below the tax credit subsidised incomes of people that happened to have been born in the UK?

One obvious repercussion were such a vindictive and openly discriminatory strategy to be implemented would be a tit-for-tat reaction from other EU states to ensure that UK citizens are denied the benefits they are entitled to whilst living abroad, putting them at a severe economic disadvantage against the locals and against migrants from other EU states.

The criticism here isn't so much that Clegg agrees with the Tory plans to economically discriminate against migrants from within the EU, it's the fact that he's trying to have it both ways. He's trying to dress himself up as a supporter of the EU, whilst simultaneously supporting a policy which undermines one of the core principles of the EU; that all EU citizens are to be treated equally by their host country (a Belgian living in the UK is entitled to what a Brit is entitled to; a Brit living in Belgium is entitled to what a Belgian is entitled to).

The whole idea of Freedom of Movement legislation is that all EU workers should be considered as equals. This Clegg endorsed plan to financially discriminate against immigrants goes against the whole spirit of the deal. If Clegg believes that migrants from within the EU should be economically discriminated against, then he should openly oppose EU Freedom of Movement legislation, rather than clouding his support for economic discrimination against immigrants behind a veneer of pro-EU rhetoric.

Were Clegg in opposition, we know that he would be attacking this kind of policy as the vindictive nonsense that it quite clearly is, and criticising the outright lies that underpin it. Which leaves us with the questions of why he is so vocal in his support for it now, and why he is so willing to peddle the complete lie that EU migrants are entitled to UK benefits without answering any questions at all.

It is absolutely clear that this policy has nothing to do with managing the immigration system, and everything to do with the Tories creating the impression that they are doing something about immigration in order to ward off the threat of UKIP. It is obvious how a vindictive policy built upon lies about immigrants and the benefits system might be of benefit to the Tories, however it is quite impossible to see how such a strategy could be of any electoral benefit to Nick Clegg.

One of the most absurd things about the above quoted statement from Nick Clegg is that it was preceded by criticism of the leaked Tory agenda to restrict migration within the EU by setting an arbitrary immigration cap as "undeliverable". But how is it possible to consider a policy aimed at restricting a phenomena that clearly doesn't exist as in any way "deliverable"? If the number of immigrants accessing benefits without answering any questions remains zero, that wouldn't be a measure of success, in fact it would be an indicator of an enormous waste of parliamentary time legislating to prevent a problem that only exists in the (tiny) minds of anti-immigration little Englanders (and Nick Clegg).

Aside from the observations that the policy Nick Clegg claims to "enthusiastically support" is designed to prevent a stated problem that doesn't even exist, and there is absolutely no way a man that claims to be a pro-EU liberal should be arguing in favour of open economic discrimination against EU citizens that have every legal right to come and work in the UK, there's also the fact that his statement relies on the absurd implication that immigrants are coming here to sponge off our generous benefits system. The actual evidence paints a different picture. The vast majority of EU migrants come to the UK to work (immigrants are a net benefit to the UK and they are significantly less likely to claim benefits than British born people) and our benefits system is anything but generous in relation to the enormous cost of living in the UK. Given the extortionate rents we pay for our tiny houses, our skyrocketing utilities bills, our high fuel prices and our rip-off over-crowded public transport systems - anyone coming to the UK solely in order to claim benefits must either be totally mad, or so lacking in cultural awareness that they haven't realised that the Daily Mail is more of a fascist hate comic than a newspaper, and ended up believing some misleading propaganda about how the UK welfare system is so incredibly generous and so easy to access.

Lastly, considering how Nick Clegg has so rapidly backtracked on things he has enthusiastically supported in the recent past (tuition fees, House of Lords reform, proportional representation, secret courts ...) one has to wonder how long his "enthusiastic support" will last for this insane policy of open economic discrimination against EU workers, whilst claiming to support the EU.

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