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Eurobriefs: The latest from Brussels

Unite referendum call

The Unite union has backed a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The union’s council argues that “A policy which combines uncritical support for the present working of the European Union while denying any opportunity for a referendum on Britain’s membership is thus likely to be an electoral millstone for Labour at the general election.”

It concedes that the British people want a referendum, but the thrust of its call is that it will help elect Labour and then (somehow) a new government will ameliorate EU policies.

Poll shunned

The final overall turnout figure for this May’s EU elections has been revised down to 42.54 per cent from 43.09 per cent, the preliminary figure based on exit polls. That’s the lowest ever in the history of the EU. Turnout has fallen at every consecutive election since direct elections to the European Parliament began in 1979.

Migration and pay

Free movement of labour is a cornerstone of the EU. The report published in July this year by the UK Migration Advisory Committee into the growth of EU and non-EU labour in low skilled jobs concluded that “The main benefit of unskilled immigration goes to the employer – say in food manufacturing – who often cannot get an adequate supply of native labour.”

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is an independent public body that advises the government. Its report says that the number of people in low-skilled jobs in Britain is similar to that in 1997. There was a decrease of 1.1 million in the number of British-born workers in low-skilled jobs between 1997 and 2013. That was offset by an increase of about the same number of migrant workers in those jobs.

For London it found that “in the worst paying 20 per cent of jobs half of workers are post 1984 migrants. This significant migrant inflow depresses wages for this quintile...at the time of the peak inflow in 2000 there was a 15 per cent reduction in pay compared with what it otherwise would have been.”