Former foreign secretary William Hague thinks he has come up with a “Goldilocks” solution for Brexit: not to hard on the economy, not to soft on immigration, but just right on both.
Writing in The Telegraph on Tuesday, the Conservative peer, who campaigned on he “Remain” side in the EU referendum, says he believes Britain should introduce work permits in place of the Freedom of Movement Act, which comes with being a European Union member and means any EU citizen can enter the country.
Hague says work permits would be a good option for the UK to help stop criminals and terrorists coming over the borders while also ensuring service industries would not suffer from a lack of staff.
Here’s a section from the column:
“Introduce work permits for nationals of EU countries — yes, this is bureaucratic, but other countries manage perfectly well to monitor who is working within their borders. Make clear, however, that any of them who get a job here will be given such a permit, unless they have a criminal record, or are on a terror watch list. Say we will not help them look for work, we will not pay them out-of-work benefits, we will not give them social housing and they will have to earn the right to any in-work benefits over time, but if they find work here they can come.
“That way, our economy will still be supported by the Europeans who help keep our restaurants, financial services and agriculture running, but we will have control over who comes here and what we give them. If the numbers in any one year were impossibly large, we could stop issuing such permits, but in practice this system would be one significant step short of the freedom of movement we have today, and we would expect the EU to give the same rights to British citizens in return.”
The “Goldilocks” analogy comes from the fairy tale of when the character of the same name would try out porridge and beds in a house of bears to find the best one. She would try the porridge of the mother bear, father bear, and baby bear, finding that the bowls contained food that was either too hot or too cold, until settling on one that was “just right.”
Hague’s column is a clear attempt to temper the rising tide of “hard Brexit” sentiment in the Tory party. A “hard Brexit” would see the UK leave the EU without agreeing to any compromises such as keeping the Freedom of Movement Act. A refusal to compromise on free movement would almost certainly see Britain excluded from the EU’s Single Market.
Various polls in the run-up to the referendum showed that immigration was a key issue for those voting for a Brexit. Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23.
If Britain does decide to stop the Freedom of Movement Act, it does need to make sure that it has a lot of EU workers coming into the UK though. In April this year, a report published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research showed that the UK service industry would hugely suffer if the flow of EU migrants stopped.
Theresa May has signalled that Britain will trigger Article 50 in the first quarter of 2017, beginning the official process of leaving the EU.