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The government has shown the best way to reduce immigration is to crash the economy

The UK no longer looks like such an attractive place for EU citizens.

This government has set itself the drastic target of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands.” Whilst this might not seem particularly realistic to most people, there is one sure-fire way to drastically cut the number of people who want to come and work in our country: make your country less and less economically attractive. And that seems to be exactly what the government is determined to do.

This is borne out by the most recent quarterly immigration figures, released today by the ONS. They show that EU net migration to the UK has fallen over the last year, with lower numbers coming here in the first place and higher numbers leaving. For some people, this will be welcome news. There is no doubt that, for a large number of Brexit-voters, voting to leave the EU was a vote for less immigration. But we should all take a moment and look at the reasons why people from the EU are choosing not to come here, or are choosing to leave in larger numbers, and how the consequences are already being felt. Let me also say at the outset that the UK needs migration and it’s about time politicians made the case rather than making EU nationals the scapegoat.

The majority of EU citizens coming to the UK come here with a definite job lined up. Many work in our NHS or other public services, as doctors, nurses, social care workers. Some UK sectors are almost totally reliant on supplies of EU labour, such as vets in abattoirs (over 90 per cent of whom are EU nationals). We are already seeing some of the negative consequences of this “Brexodus” of EU citizens from our country: the number of nurses and midwives coming to work in the NHS has fallen by89 per cent since the referendum, all at a time when NHS staffing and staff morale is nearing crisis levels. Farms are reporting having to leave fruit and vegetables rotting in the fields because they simply don’t have enough workers to pick them.

This isn’t just an economic argument, either. EU citizens are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and in some cases our family. It’s fundamentally un-British that people who came here in good faith from the EU to work in and contribute to this country are being made to feel unwelcome. Let’s also not forget the number of UK nationals that live, work and study in other EU countries.

So, while the consequences of this “Brexodus” is already being felt, it’s worth looking at the reasons why it’s happening. Obviously, the vote for Brexit cannot be ignored as an important factor. And it is as much the economic impact of that decision as any perceived message of hostility to our neighbours that is causing the problems. For one undeniable impact of the vote for Brexit is a slowdown in the economy. We’ve gone from the fastest growing economy in the G7, to the slowest. Real wages have been falling for months. Inflation is well above the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target, mainly due to the collapse in the value of the pound since the referendum. The Government’s own secret figures say that the long-term consequences of Brexit will be catastrophic for the economy, especially in the North of England. The supposed “sunlit uplands” of Brexit look more like a mirage than ever. The result is that the UK no longer looks like such an attractive place for EU citizens to come and work, which should be no cause for celebration, no matter how many times the Government repeats the tired Brexit slogan of “taking back control”.  

As the Brexit promised by Leave campaigners is increasingly revealed as undeliverable and undesirable, and as the costs to our economy and our society mount up, we are all entitled to keep an open mind about whether it’s the right path for the country.  

EU nationals are telling us what they think of the government's Brexit strategy. Perhaps we should heed what they are saying.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South, and a leading supporter of Open Britain

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South. He was previously shadow minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, and shadow secretary of state for Scotland between May 2015 and June 2016. 


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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.