UK polls indicate the the EU in general is not a concern for most people. It doesn’t even make it into the top ten of priorities when deciding who to vote for. In fact, a YouGov poll shows that most people believe that Britain should remain within the EU.
The main opposition to the EU , it seems, is immigration. More specifically, how immigration impacts on jobs within the UK.
However, I don’t believe this tells the whole story. I think people in Britain understand the need for immigration in order to fill job vacancies which can’t be filled by people born in the UK. For example, vacancies within the NHS. In short, I don’t believe British people are against immigration full stop. I believe they are pragmatic. They understand the need for it, but don’t feel immigration works when anyone from within the EU can seemingly fill any job vacancy at any time.
With an ‘open door’ policy on immigration, people also question the access immigrants have to social housing and benefits.
As a result, people do support the EU but they don’t support every aspect of the EU. They want an EU which works for Britain and British people, but they don’t want an EU which fails them. This shows that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. That is to say, it is possible to support being a member of the EU without supporting every policy of the EU.
As a result, I believe we are left with three options. Firstly, we accept the EU for everything because, on the whole, it means Britain is arguably better off as a country. Secondly, we carry on as we are.
However, we can thirdly recognise where the EU is failing individuals and change those aspects of the union. And here is how I believe that can be achieved. It would require pro-EU parties within the EU to come together and agree on changes within the union. I have listed the changes as to how they would affect the UK.
1. Agree that all jobs should be made available to British citizens first for a period of time long enough to give British citizens a chance to fill that vacancy. Only when it is obvious that the vacancy cannot be filled by British citizens should it be made available to people outside of the UK.
2. Only immigrants who have filled a job vacancy under the new criteria should have access to social housing.
3. Freedom of movement within the EU should be allowed, even to live in the UK. However, a non-British citizen should live in the country for a considerable period of time, perhaps a year, before they can take a job ahead of a British citizen.
4. Only immigrants who have filled a job vacancy should be entitled to benefits.
The other options are to embrace the EU as a single country – a United States of Europe, with some laws and policies left to the individual states. So we begin to see people from other countries not as immigrants, but as people of the same country.
However, there appears to be little appetite for this around the EU from both politicians and citizens.
Alternatively, we can carry on as we are. But this would be to ignore the concerns of EU citizens and see an increase in far right support and anti EU parties. This will result in a disunited Europe with its citizens happy to leave.
Consequently, the only alternative left for pro-EU parties may be to unite in pragmatic change to how the union works.