BELLA FRIMPONG says the UK has benefited hugely from the freedom of movement. Here she gives a personal account of how it has helped her family.
‘Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.’
A question that sends a shiver down the spine of most normal people, forced upon us by ‘facilitators’ to make us acquaint ourselves with strangers in a new environment.
But, for me, the response has been an easy one. I’ve always always spoken about my background. At first glance, you couldn’t guess that I’m an Italian national, with Ghanaian heritage, who has been living in the UK for the last 9 years. I take pride in being able to say I have lived in 3 countries on 2 continents. My story, whilst interesting, is far more than unique. There are millions of young people just like me in the UK, from even more diverse backgrounds. Who are, by the way, making a net contribution to the UK through income taxes and national insurance contributions, than they receive in tax credits and child benefits, as academic research has shown.
I emphasise immigrant contribution to the UK in a pre-emptive attempt to curb the expected extrapolation that immigrants benefit from the UK, at the expense of the British native. Rather, immigration benefits both the UK, and immigrants such as myself.
As mentioned before, I take pride in my experiences of different cultures, which have all contributed to making me the productive member of society that I am today. Not that my ability to pay taxes defines my value to the UK; however, becoming a contributing member of British society came down to the opportunity to educate myself (on an EU-funded University campus), live, and ultimately work in Europe: freedom of movement.
This is more definitive of my parents’ experience, who moved to Germany as hopeful twenty-somethings, in search of better opportunities. They worked their way up, moved to Italy, and created the foundations necessary for their future children to access a British education, who in turn have gone on to surpass their parents’ achievements. Without freedom of movement, the history of my family, and many like mine would be very different. The history, economy and culture of the UK would also be different without the contributions or movement of such people.
My family’s exercise of freedom of movement may not appear relevant or impactful for those who perhaps see it as no benefit to them; however, it is an important right that we should strive to protect. If not for the sake of fostering an environment of tolerance, economic growth and opportunity, then for the growing number of Britons who retire and own homes within the EU.
For the thousands of UK students who can freely and cost effectively access education and travel programs abroad each year. For the simple convenience of not having to pay extortionate amounts of money to visit family and friends in Europe. For the local business that will be overwhelmed by red tape bureaucracy. For the thousands of people who will or have already lost jobs due to larger businesses moving their headquarters abroad. Whilst the freedom of human movement is important, we often forget that with this, comes trade and labour as well: founding principles of economic growth.
So, although one may not value the freedom of human movement, the benefits of trade and labour cannot be so easily dismissed.
The single biggest threat to freedom of movement right now is Brexit: caused by a campaign of lies and fraud from the Leave campaign and a lack of effective action from Remain campaigners. However, Brexit is not inevitable; the stripping away of our rights to movement is not inevitable. I don’t believe we can change the result of 2016; on the contrary, I believe it should be respected. However, we must also come to terms with the fact that not only was the British public lied to, but 2 years on, we have new information and facts to better inform the public to make decisions. Our government cannot reach a consensus and barely any progress has been made. I believe a People’s Vote is the only way out of this mess. That’s why myself and thousands of students and young people from across the United Kingdom will be marching parliament this Saturday at the People’s Vote March for the Future.
• Bella Frimpong is a supporter of the For our Future’s Sake campaign.