Ending freedom of movement means no end to the skills shortages

PUBLISHED: 13:55 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:55 29 November 2019

Boris Johnson speaks to nurses during a visit to the East Midlands and East of England Genomic Laboratory Hub at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Photograph: Alastair Grant/PA.

Boris Johnson speaks to nurses during a visit to the East Midlands and East of England Genomic Laboratory Hub at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Photograph: Alastair Grant/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Is anyone keeping count of the overall numbers of employee shortages in the UK?

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I hear various figures - 40,000 nurses, 6,000 GPs, 120,000 HGV drivers, 20,000 police officers, 10,000 construction workers, unquantified numbers of teachers - to list but a few.

So why are all the opposition parties running scared of the freedom of movement question? It's blindingly obvious why we have these shortages - a huge reduction in the numbers of well-qualified, skilled people from the EU, where high-quality vocational training programmes abound and provide a reliable supply of skilled employees.

Their impact is equally so: Unacceptable waits in A&E, life-threatening delays for surgery and other medical interventions, delays and cost overruns in infrastructure projects, schools struggling to cope, increases in knife-crime and the spread of county lines, none of the 200,000 promised affordable homes built.

Who suffers most from these impacts? Not the well-heeled Tories whose money can get them to the front of the queue, but the hard-working people of Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Barnsley, South Shields, Clacton-on-Sea, Boston, Great Yarmouth... in short, the Leave-voting areas.

If freedom of movement is toxic politically, then it's about time the opposition parties got together and detoxified it. We can't expect Johnson to do this - after all, for him it would be getting perilously close to the truth. We need freedom of movement whilst at the same time introducing the sorts of controls other EU countries have always used to manage it.

Meanwhile, in the race to over-promise and under-deliver, Johnson and Corbyn need to be asked: Just where are the skilled workers going to come from to implement their fantasies?

Phil Green

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