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Skilled Workers Leave as Real Wages in Eastern Europe Rise by up to 70% while UK Wages Fall

June 9, 2019 11:26 PM
Originally published by West Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats

Real Wage Growth in Europe 2008 - 2016Three years is a long time in politics, and 10 years is longer still. Actually both are pretty long periods of time anyway. Ten years ago, back in the aftermath of the financial crisis - that self-inflicted near-catastrophy resulting from a lack of oversight and regulation in the US and UK - things looked good in Britain when viewed from Riga, or Plovdiv, or Craiova or from Bydgoszcz. Prompt action in the UK had saved its banks, liquidity pumped into the financial sytem had saved its economy. Britain was back on its feet, the pound gave you €1.30 and wages were anyway far more than you could earn at home.

Small wonder then that energetic people trapped in rural economies with few opportunities and low wages flocked to the UK - and the British government made no attempt to use EU mechanisms to control this. With the second wave of eastern countries joining the EU, Britain did apply for a 5-year delay as it could have done ealier, to enable a controlled adjustment to take place.

However, vacancies were filled, pipes were fixed, nurses, doctors and dentists looked after patients, construction boomed, the UK was doing very well indeed and most people were happy with the outcome.

Then along came the nativists for whom where you were born was the big thing ("We're British and we don't need Europeans!") and the populists for whom what they personally wanted was the biggest thing of all ("We're the voice of the people and what we want we get!").

And of course three years ago we had the Referendum and a small majority of people in a not particularly high turnout poll, voted to leave the EU. Some were influenced by Boris Johnson's untruthful statements, others by UKIP's downright lies about tens of millions of Bulgarians, Romanians and Turks all poised to arrive, it was implied, the very near future.

Overnight almost it became acceptable to taunt and harrass your neighbours from Eastern Europe.

That changed things obviously. After all, no-one wants to stay where they're not wanted.

However, people will put up with a lot to earn money, so most stayed. But unnoticed by most people things had been changing in the East. The economies in the countries that the Brexiters so despise had been improving - just as the EU system was designed to make happen.

So now many people found that the pound only gets you €1.13, wages back home are much better, there are plenty of vacancies and opportunities are now good. In some of these countries there is a fair amount of catching up to do, but there's no indication the UK will do better in the future while the high levels of growth in the EU are pretty sustained. All in all it is an inducement to many to return to their family and friends, contribute to their own countries' economic improvement and turn their backs on the UK's prejudice and unpleasantness towards them - behaviour which is increasing steadily.

With the Referendum already three years in the past and with recent election showing that Leave has lost ground and is almost certainly now in the minority, we might hope for another formal test of public opinion - but no. The Tories are hell bent on taking us out of Europe and are now prepared to wreck our parliamentary system to force their views on the rest of us. Locked in the past it looks as though the UK might leave Europe after all.

One hopes that the UK will be able to replace the departing Europeans with people from elsewhere with the requisite skills, and hopes too that these new arrivals will attract less harrassment and prejudice than the people they are replacing.