by Peter McGregor
As part of the process of the UK leaving the EU, many bills are being pushed through Westminster. The Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill is one of these, which seeks to end the free movement of people from EU countries into the UK. It will require people from EU countries to apply for a visa before travelling into the UK.
Brought forward by Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel, it is a blatant attack on immigrants and seeks to tap into a polarised mood around immigration which was stoked up during the Brexit referendum campaign – by groups on both sides – and part of the Tories’ ‘hostile environment’ strategy. The bill will set up a points-based system for immigration, which only serves the needs of the capitalist system by giving those that are deemed as having profitable skills the required points to enter the UK.
In Stormont, Sinn Féin, the DUP and other Executive parties united to vote through significant parts of the Tory immigration bill through the Assembly via a Legislative Consent Motion. Minister for Communities Carál Ní Chuilín was responsible for moving this attack on immigrant workers. She claimed that those opposing it were talking “guff”. She claimed that refusal to pass it would mean the Tories would remove Stormont’s “powers to modify social security” and that the Assembly was too busy to create bespoke legislation! This line of argument was backed by Alliance MLA Kelly Armstrong, who claimed her party were supporting it because they were “realists.” Yet in Scotland, the parliament has refused to lodge a similar Legislative Consent Motion.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Tories strives to divide the working class, and pit worker against worker, to distract from the exploitation that we all face under capitalism, regardless of race or nationality. As well as opposing this racist Tory immigration policy, socialists are opposed to the Fortress Europe policy of the EU, including the militarisation of its external borders, deploying fleets to round up immigrants, and deporting refugees to ‘third countries’ with atrocious human rights records. The truth is there is plenty of wealth in society to provide decent homes, jobs and public services for all – but it is hoarded by the billionaires and bosses who the Tories and EU both represent.
The passing of this bill in Stormont shows that the main Stormont parties – including ‘remain’ parties like Sinn Féin and Alliance- cannot be trusted to defend immigrant rights. Stormont has also failed to put forward a racial equality strategy and, of course, has harassed and criminalised Black Lives Matter protesters. The Covid crisis has shown the important role immigrant workers play in our health service and in society, while also showing the completely parasitic nature of the capitalists. Only a movement of all working-class people, fighting for socialist future, can put an end to racism, poor working conditions, low wages, high rent and all other forms of poverty and oppression.