The only things we can be sure that the EU referendum was about was that it was a majority vote for leaving the European Union and an endorsement of the main promise offered by the Leavers to “take back control”. However the economically non-damaging options (for example staying in the European Economic Area, the so-called Norway option, which business favours) need the UK to sign up to free movement of people.
My cross cultural professional insight on this being that the French and German leadership are likely to be highly rules/principles – and no exceptions – based about this, as one of the fundamentals of Europe.
So. The bottom line to what I am proposing is – we leave the EU, join the EEA and accept free movement of people between nations but not between regional authorities. We harness the power of Big Data (something the Brexit True Believers like Steve Hilton, Daniel Hannan and Michael Gove – although I doubt he has the faintest idea what that is – should be happy about in their dreams for a digital democratic 21st century nation) to be far more hands on about the movement of people within our country.
I’m thinking that National Insurance numbers should be devolved to a local level. Local communities vote on how many NI numbers they are willing to offer per year, and this should be cross checked against hiring plans, school places, available housing, NHS capacity – and plans/funding made accordingly. There will be no benefits, no school places, no jobs, no housing without an NI number.
It will need an investment in administrative resources to back this up and enforce – it will be like when the national census was first introduced in 1841. And really, the fact that we still only do a national census every 10 years a full 175 years later is quite bizarre in our rapidly changing, globalizing world.
It addresses the issue that the unexpectedly large influx of EU people into the UK since 2004 has been very unevenly distributed, particularly amongst communities that have never really recovered since the 1980s collapse of traditional industries.
It actually may turn out to be unnecessary, as I agree with Jonathan Portes at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research that we might have reached peak immigration anyway. Brexit will certainly help push this trend further. But at least it gives people a sense that they are back in control again.
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