The Spectator

Letters | 30 June 2016

Also in Spectator Letters: Scotland post-Brexit; EU reforms; voters’ inconsistency; coalition government; and more on the referendum

A rational vote

Sir: There has been a lot of bile poured out about those who voted Leave by the Remainers. Their intelligence, their racial tolerance and their general moral standing has been called into question. I was a Remain voter, but live in an area that was 69 per cent Leave, and work with people who were strongly anti-remaining.

To take one example, being anti-free migration is being referred to as racism. For many people migration is not anything to do with race or even nationality: 1,000 people from the next town would create the same degree of concern as 1,000 Poles. When jobs, houses, school places and so on are limited, it is the amount of competition faced that creates the problem, not where the competition comes from.

For a man or woman living in Hull or Stoke or Burnley with ten new jobs a week being created and ten people a week — local people — seeking jobs, then seeing ten or 15 migrants moving in each week is frightening. If those migrants came from Leeds or Milton Keynes, it would not reduce the fear. Economics, not race or nationality, is the problem.

It is many years since I received my economics degree, but the law of supply and demand still applies. People in towns with high unemployment know that with more people chasing each job, the wage offered can be lower. The minimum wage in many places has become the usual wage. Skill premiums have disappeared as European skilled workers take the job at minimum wage that 20 years ago would have attracted a 10 or 20 per cent top up. Would zero-hour contracts exist if employers had more jobs than there were applicants?

There has been much flaunting of the economic benefits of migration. But for many people, the reality has been lower wages, longer hours and less hope for the future.

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