Narratives and Statistics- EU “migrants”.

Cameron has abandoned plans to renegotiate one of the main principles of the EU- The freedom of movement of people throughout the EU. That was a wise move. Instead, his plan is to disqualify “eu migrants” from in work benefits for the first 4 years. To back this up, spokespeople for the Tories quoted a figure of 43% of eu migrants claiming in work benefit within the 1st four years of arrival.

As I flicked from Radio4 and Radio5live this morning, I did not hear a single journalist question this statistic nor where it came from.

Even if this statistic is true and verifiable then there are several questions which could and should have been asked. Apart from making the point that over half of EU migrants do not claim in work benefits…..

  • What is the regional breakdown of claimants?
  • How many are working in London, having to claim Housing Benefit in order to pay rent?
  • How many re working as care assistants, within NHS, providing vital services?
  • How much do you think this measure will save?
  • What will be the impact on services if these migrants no longer come into the country?

Many more questions could be asked. But they weren’t. And that is even if the statistic is true and verifiable. So far, the government has not been able to say where the figure comes from. Read here. 

But true or not, the figure is out there, has not been questioned and will no doubt stick. The statistic has become  fact and fits the narrative that the government wants to put forward. Now those who oppose Cameron’s renegotiation as petty and small-minded will have more even greater difficulty presenting an alternative narrative.

A final point. Should we even be talking about eu migrants if we accept the principle of free movement of people? Is there a difference between people moving from one part of the eu to another and people moving from one region of the UK and another? Or UK citizens moving to Spain?


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