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EU Commissioner tells ‘inconvenient truth’ about migration

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

Press release issued: 11 February 2014

A full-house gathered at the University of Bristol to hear a senior EU official defend the free movement of migrant workers within the EU, urging people to accept the ‘inconvenient truth’ that labour mobility benefits the economy.

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, accused politicians of ‘pandering to prejudice’ and called for them to talk about facts rather than perceptions.

The Commissioner told a crowd of 280 people in the Wills Memorial Building that the vast majority of people who move from one EU country to another do so in order to work, not to claim benefits.

He said: “These workers are in fact of considerable benefit to the economies, and to the welfare systems, of the receiving countries.

“For all countries with an ageing population, like the UK, the availability of migrant workforce is an asset. Countries like Germany, where the domestic workforce is rapidly ageing and shrinking, would simply be unable to function without inflows of people from other EU countries.

“EU migrant workers can help the host country's economy to function better, by addressing skills shortages and labour market bottlenecks. They contribute to macroeconomic demand and to government revenues, so they can indeed help to create more jobs in the host country. They can also help to reduce the tax burden on the domestic population.”

Mr Andor said he had asked the British government for evidence to back up its claims that benefits tourism was a growing problem, but ‘all that we have received is a series of anecdotes about cases of criminal fraud and vicars performing sham marriages’.

His comments hit the headlines nationally and locally, with articles in The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Times and Reuters.

Professor Jeffrey Henderson, Professor of International Development in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, invited the Commissioner to speak at the University.

Professor Henderson said: “How the British government now deals with migrants from elsewhere in Europe may prove to be the defining moment, not merely in Britain’s entire relationship with the EU, but in our country’s future as a liberal, tolerant and globalised society.

“By presenting a reasoned argument based on the detailed facts about migration – a ‘truth’ that is very ‘inconvenient’ for sections of the British media, the government and UKIP - Commissioner Andor’s lecture implicitly, but thoroughly, exposed the fallacies of the xenophobic discourse that emanates from such circles.

“Unfortunately for the British people as a whole, however, there are increasingly influential groups in our society who are never going to be interested in the truth about migration. As so often in Britain, I fear that ideology is again about to trump reason.

The full speech is available from the European Union website and you can also view a video.

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