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Shropshire Star comment: Money will always talk to migrants

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Unless you are able to ask the EU citizens who are no longer coming to Shropshire and Mid Wales to seek work why they are no longer coming, it is impossible to say for certain the reasons behind the trend.

The obvious assumption is it is all to do with Brexit, and for those arguing on either side of the Brexit debate, they may wish to seize on the figures to make their points.

But saying it is to do with Brexit would be a lazy jumping to conclusions. The economic world is nothing if not dynamic, and labour requirements and opportunities are ever-changing.

The bare figures show that in the Shropshire Council patch 197 EU citizens have successfully applied for National Insurance numbers, which are a requirement for those wishing to work or claim benefits. This is a fall of 105 on the period before the Brexit vote. In Telford & Wrekin the figure was 404, down 183, and over the border in Powys 81 signed up, which is 69 fewer than before the referendum.

The fall has been especially pronounced from those Eastern European nations which were part of the big enlargement of the EU at the start of the century. These have been some of the poorest nations in the EU with the lowest living standards and so there has been a real incentive for workers there to come to Britain to enjoy better pay and perhaps be able to send some money back to their families.

There is nothing to stop them continuing to do so. Free movement of labour continues, and the way the Brexit negotiations are going, that is going to apply for some considerable time. And even when – and if – Britain does extract itself from the EU mechanisms, people from abroad will still be able to come here to work.

As the workers have been coming here for economic reasons, it makes sense to look to see if there are economic reasons which could be behind the fall in numbers. The value of the pound has fallen, and we know Brexit is behind that because it coincided exactly with referendum night.

Meanwhile, in Poland, for example, the economy is robust. They say money talks. Figures like these might be saying to citizens of these countries: ‘Why bother going to Britain?'

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