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Immigration and border control are increasingly cited as the main reasons for why the UK should leave the EU. Those advocating exit often mention Norway and Switzerland as models the UK should follow outside the EU. However, this briefing shows that Switzerland and Norway have far higher levels of EU immigration than the UK as a proportion of their populations. If the UK had the same net EU immigration rate as Switzerland, it would mean nearly 400,000 more EU migrants a year.
Migration from other EU member states has shot to the top of the political agenda, with immigration and border control increasingly cited as the primary reasons for why the UK should leave the EU. Those advocating exit often mention Norway and Switzerland as models the UK should follow outside the EU.
However, in fact, Norway and Switzerland have far higher levels of EU immigration than the UK as a proportion of their populations. These countries do operate under slightly different legal arrangements to the UK when it comes to EU migration. In practice, though, they are fully integrated into the EU’s free movement rules, and the EU has repeatedly made it clear that free movement of people is the price that must be paid for access to the single market.
In 2012, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, gross EU immigration to Switzerland was 90,107. This amounts to a gross inflow of 11.33 EU migrants per 1,000 of Swiss population. In comparison, gross EU migration to the UK was higher in absolute terms (157,554), but that only works out as a rate of 2.48 EU migrants per 1,000 of its population. Norway, a member of the European Economic Area, also had a rate of gross EU immigration far higher than the UK, with 7.38 EU migrants per 1,000 of its population.
In other words, if the UK had the same rate of EU immigration per head as Switzerland in 2012, the gross inflow of EU migration would have been 719,248 rather than the actual figure of 157,554 – just over four and half times more.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but the bilateral Free Movement of Persons Agreement has removed restrictions on EU citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland. The citizens of Bulgaria and Romania will remain subject to restrictions until 31 May 2016 at the latest. Croatians are currently subject to a quota system.
In a referendum in February 2014, the Swiss voted to introduce quotas on EU migrants from 2017. Such quotas would violate the terms of Switzerland’s free movement treaty with the EU. In fact, the EU has so far refused to agree to Swiss quotas for EU migrants and has threatened to suspend other EU-Swiss bilateral agreements with the country if Switzerland unilaterally imposes quotas. The EU-Swiss free movement treaty is linked to agreements on technical barriers to trade, public procurement, agriculture, transport, civil aviation, and research by a so-called ‘guillotine clause’. This means they can only take effect together, and if one of the agreements is terminated the other six would cease to apply.
In theory, Switzerland can unilaterally impose the quotas. However, this is likely to provoke retaliation from the EU – which could result in reduced market access to the EU for Swiss firms. Ultimately, migration and trade are closely bound together in the Swiss relationship with the EU.
Norway is also outside the EU, but is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). As such, Norway must apply the same free movement rules as EU member states, but has no vote on the rules. The EEA Agreement with the EU does include ‘safeguard measures’ allowing the parties to take “appropriate measures” if serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising”. In an extreme case, such measures may be used to limit EU migration – but could only be temporary.
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This is an incredibly contrived and fallacious piece. The levels of immigration into Norway and Switzerland are not driven just by the "models" they have for relationship with the EU. Adoption for example of the Swiss "model" by the UK (not that I am advocating it) would not result in the UK suddenly being subject to similar immigration levels to Switzerland. To conclude that Norway and Switzerland therefore are "not the answer" for the UK is absolute balderdash, I'm sorry!
Were the UK to leave the EU but remain in the EEA/Single Market (eg by joining EFTA), and retained complete Freedom of movement, there is no reason to suppose that immigration would increase at all beyond the levels it experiences as an EU member. Moreover, it is highly likely that some restrictions to the full Freedom of Movement rules could be negotiated as part of the Brexit "deal".
@AndrewAJM Well actually, the UK would draw an even bigger deluge of immigrants upon leaving the EU, if, Theresa May 'negotiates' our departure to maintain access to the Single Market. (It's suicide not to, given that the City of London makes 15 times more financial transactions that the rest of Europe -- Switzerland included -- Combined.
@AndrewAJM @AndrewAJMSomething that's not sinking in -- and yes, I'm quite aggrieved by the following formula -- Access to the Single Market = Accepting Free Movement. Fact. A SHITE formula though it is, it's a fact nevertheless.
PS To support my assertion saying that migration would be greater in the event Therea May will invariably succumb to some kind of Free Movement -- we've had a few years watching on our TV screens the migrants flooding into Europe, who are intent on getting into the UK (albeit, while bypassing the warm invite by Merkel for over a millions to go live in Germany).
@DavidSalt1 @AndrewAJM I don't think deluge and flood are the right words. Not only are they exaggerations, it's emotive language. Putting that aside, the migrants coming into Europe are non-EU by definition. They include refugees who might not stay permanently and illegals who will not be allowed to stay. Few of them come to the UK for the following reasons. The UK is not part of the Schengen, the UK is an island, the UK has well-controlled borders and the UK is not part of Merkel's invitation.
The migrants coming to the UK which are the subject of the Single Market vs Freedom of Movement debate are an entirely different group of people. They are EU nationals. If the UK leaves the EU but remains in or rejoins the EEA/Single Market there is no reason whatsoever for immigration numbers to be greater than if the UK remained in the EU.
I do agree there is some pressure on Theresa May to stay in the Single Market at least on a transitional basis (5 years?), not just for the City of London's sake but also for the sake of several other important sectors - automotive, pharmaceuticals to name but two. It wouldn't exactly be suicide as we will still be around - it's more like sawing off your own right leg so that your next door neighbour stops asking to borrow your shoes.
The neighbour would still demand one shoe.
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