What is the EU?

See below for Professor Dougan’s comments on immigration, which he emailed me today.

A friend shared a video of a talk given by Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool’s Law School. As he explains, he’s spent a lifetime studying and practising EU law, and as such has been a go-to consultant for various news outlets during the buildup to the referendum.

In this video he puts his cards on the table and explains the reasons for his decision to vote to remain, as well as clearly explaining some of the intricacies of the EU and how it works.

It’s well worth a watch. If you don’t know anything at all about how the EU functions, it might be worth getting to know some of the basics first, so you get what he’s on about!

There is a PDF guide to the EU institutions here, which I have found useful in getting my head around the various parts of the euro-machine. And obviously an hour or two on Wikipedia came in handy too! And this YouTube video explains some of the more amusing idiosyncracies (and infinite exceptions to rules) of the EU.

At the end of his talk, Professor Dougan acknowledges that he hasn’t had time to include his analysis of some pretty pertinent issues, including immigration.

I emailed Professor Dougan and he kindly responded with the following email, in which he describes his analysis of this aspect of the EU debate. He was happy for these comments to be reproduced online.

[Edit: the University of Liverpool has since published these comments on their own news site here]

Dear Ben

Thanks for your email.  On immigration, here is what I had planned to say, but I ran badly over time and had to rush through to an incomplete conclusion:

– a significant majority of the foreign nationals living in the UK (2/3 at the last national census), and over half the net immigration each year, come from outside the EU.  That is entirely within our own power – so it hardly supports the view that EU membership is in itself driving up immigration; we seem to be good at that ourselves even without any help from the EU. 

– as regards those EU nationals who come to the UK: it is completely dishonest of prominent Leave campaigners repeatedly to claim that there is some sort of unconditional right to move to and settle in another Member State.  We all have a right to circulate – that is the basis on which, e.g. we go on holiday to Spain and France.  But when it comes to settling in another country, there are three main categories of right under EU law: for the economically active (ie in work and paying taxes); for students (eg enrolled at university and thus paying tuition fees); and for those wealthy enough to look after themselves and their families without relying on public benefits.  There is no right to “benefit tourism” under EU law.  

– Against that background, it is unsurprising to find that – according to all the objective social science research – EU migrants are significantly more likely to be younger, better qualified and economically active; they pay far more into the country in work and taxes than they take out in public benefits or services.

– When it comes to the particular situation of Eastern European migrants, we are rarely reminded of the fact that the UK was one of only three Member States that chose not to impose transitional restrictions on their rights to free movement during the “Big Bang” enlargement of 2004.  We chose to let these people come here as we did; no one forced us to and we could have decided otherwise.  Small wonder that many other Europeans regard the UK debate as rather hypocritical. 

– And nor should we forget that free movement is a two way street.  Massive numbers of UK nationals travel for pleasure, study and work around the EU – taking advantage of all the convenience and protection EU law offers.  Around 2 million UK nationals have also settled in other Member States – and the objective social science research shows that those migrants are more likely to be economically inactive, ie they are not actively contributing through work and taxes to their host society.  Again – small wonder other Europeans think there is a real double standard at work in the UK debate. 

– It is also worth recalling that the accession of future Member States requires the unanimous agreement of the 28 governments plus their national ratification processes.  The only large applicant is Turkey – and there is no realistic prospect of Turkey joining the EU within any of our lifetimes – not least since several countries have said they will have national referenda on any Turkish deal, obviously in the expectation that their populations would overwhelmingly reject it.  

Best wishes



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