London is set to be the biggest loser from any restrictive new migration policies

This lot are stuffed. Image: Getty.

The number of EU nationals working in the UK broke a new record last week: according to the Office of National Statistics, EU nationals now make up 7.4 per cent of the UK workforce. But behind the national figure, regional differences are striking.

If there was ever any doubt that London’s workforce has become increasingly ‘European’, the ONS should have dispelled it by now. Its 2016 figures on the nationality of workers show just how much freedom of movement with the European Union has changed the face of the capital: more than the rest of the country, and more than we previously thought.

London stands out from the rest of the country on many metrics, but the composition of its workforce is particularly out of step. At 15 per cent, the proportion of EU nationals in the city’s workforce is three times higher than elsewhere in the country, and about twice that of other major UK cities such as Manchester or Birmingham.

Across all industries the London workforce is more ‘European’, but for some –  in construction, public admin or real estate – the specificity of London is startling. Workers in construction are eight times more likely to be citizens of another EU country than elsewhere in the UK; workers in public admin or real estate five times more.  

Looking at workers’ nationality – rather than their country of birth, which has formed the basis for previous statistics – widens the gap in some industries. That’s particularly true in those with a high proportion of workers who are citizens from another EU country, but who were born outside the EU (Latin-American born Spanish citizens for instance).

Proportion of EU workers in selected industries. Source: ONS Annual Population Survey

This unique trait of London’s labour market stresses how strongly the shock of restricting freedom of movement would be felt in the capital. The flexibility and the lack of bureaucracy brought about by freedom of movement within the EU has removed many of the barriers foreign nationals face to studying and working in the UK.

While some EU regions have lost population, or have attracted a low-skilled workforce, London’s EU population has risen – from 500,000 in 2003 to around 1,200,000 in 2015. Around 80 per cent of this is middle- or high-skilled, according to the ONS’ April release. Freedom of movement is perhaps the aspect of EU membership that has affected London’s economy the most – yet the effects of restricting migration have rarely surfaced in the national discussion, and when they do, they are generally discussed as a positive rather than a negative aspect of Brexit.


Ministers have suggested that new visa rules could be more relaxed for high-skilled migrants in high-value added sectors, or for low-skilled migrants in crunch professions (‘barista visas’ was the version of this spun to The Sun). But while some sectors rely more heavily on their European workforce than others, the table above shows all industries in London would be affected in one way or another: struggling to fill vacancies, or facing the bureaucracy and costs of sponsoring visas.

Centre for London’s recent publication, Open city: London after Brexit, made the case for remaining in the Single Market to keep the city’s companies and services running. But if this is not possible, new immigration and trade policies need to reflect London’s needs as well as the rest of the country’s preferences – with a more flexible regime for the city that is the engine of the UK economy and a magnet for talented young people from across the world.

Nicolas Bosetti is a research intern at the Centre for London. He tweets as @nicolasbosetti.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

America's cities can't police their way out of this crisis

Police deployed tear gas during anti-racism demonstrations in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As protesters took to the streets across the United States over the weekend to express their anger at police killings of unarmed black Americans, it was hard to miss the hypocrisy coming from local authorities – including the otherwise progressive, left-leaning officials who are in power in most major American cities. 

Many US mayors and their police chiefs had issued public statements over the past week that seemed – only briefly, as it turned out – to signal a meaningful shift in the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement is being taken seriously by those who are in a position to enact reforms. 

The sheer depravity of the most recent high-profile killing had left little room for equivocation. George Floyd, 46, died last Monday under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while three additional officers helped to hold Floyd down, doing nothing to aid him as he begged for them to stop and eventually lost consciousness. The officers had been attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. All four have since been fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge—it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Washington Post in response to the Floyd case. Meanwhile Moore’s boss, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday claimed that he understood why his city, which is no stranger to police brutality, was protesting. “We absolutely need as a nation, certainly as a city, to voice our outrage, it’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who’s been murdered for the structural racism that we have in our country,” Garcetti said. 

Normally, US police chiefs and mayors tend to ask citizens to withhold judgment on these types of cases until full investigations can be completed. But a 10-minute video recording of Floyd’s killing had made what happened plain. Police chiefs across the country – and even the nation’s largest police union, which is notorious for defending officer abuses – similarly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, in a rare show of moral clarity that, combined with the arrest of Chauvin, offered at least a glimmer of hope that this time things might be different. 

As the events of the weekend have since shown, that glimmer was all too fleeting. 

In city after city over the past three days, US mayors and their police chiefs made a series of the same decisions – starting with the deployment of large, heavily armed riot units – that ultimately escalated violent confrontations between officers and protesters. Images widely shared on social media Saturday and Sunday nights made it clear that members of law enforcement were often initiating the worst of the violence, and appeared to treat protesters as enemy combatants, rather than citizens they were sworn to protect. 


In New York City, two police SUVs were seen plowing into a crowd of protesters, while elsewhere an officer was recorded pulling down a young protester’s coronavirus mask in order to pepper spray his face

In Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman was fatally shot by police on 13 March, state police in riot gear were captured confiscating and destroying protesters’ supplies

In Minneapolis, forces opened fire with nonlethal rounds on residential streets, much to the shock of homeowners standing on their own front porches. 

Images of police pushing or shoving peaceful protesters were almost too numerous to count, including, in Salt Lake City, an elderly man with a cane

In many places, police also targeted journalists who were covering the protests, firing at clearly identifiable media crews with rubber bullets, injuring and even arresting reporters

Some protesters did commit acts of vandalism and looting, and the leaders of cities where that happened generally responded in the same ways. 

First, they blamed “outside agitators” for the worst protester behaviour, a claim that harkens all the way back to the civil rights era and for which the evidence is murky at best

Next, they enacted sudden curfews with little to no warning, which gave law enforcement an excuse to make mass arrests, in some cases violently. 

In a pair of widely criticized moves, Garcetti of Los Angeles closed the city’s Covid-19 testing centers and suspended the entire mass transit system Saturday evening, stranding essential workers on their way home from daytime shifts. Late Sunday night in Chicago, the city’s public school system halted its free meal distribution service for low-income children, citing “the evolving nature of activity across the city”.  

Governors in at least 12 US states, in coordination with city leaders, have since called in National Guard troops to “help”. 

At this point it’s clear that the leaders of America’s cities are in desperate need of a radically different playbook to respond to these protests. A heavily armed, militarised response to long-simmering anger toward the heavily armed, militarised approach to American policing is more than ironic – it’s ineffective. Granting police officers wider latitude to make arrests via curfews also seems destined to increase the chances of precisely the tragic, racially biased outcomes to which the protesters are reacting. 

There are other options. In places such as Flint, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey – both poor cities home to large black populations – local law enforcement officials chose to put down their weapons and march alongside protesters, rather than face off against them. In the case of Camden, that the city was able to avoid violent clashes is in no small part related to the fact that it took the drastic step of disbanding its former police department altogether several years ago, replacing it with an entirely new structure. 

America’s cities are in crisis, in more ways than one. It’s not a coincidence that the country has tipped into chaos following months of emotionally draining stay-at-home orders and job losses that now top 40 million. Low-income Americans of colour have borne a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s ravages, and public health officials are already worried about the potential for protests to become Covid-19 super-spreading events.

All of this has of course been spurred on by the US president, who in addition to calling Sunday for mayors and governors to “get tough” on protesters, has made emboldening white nationalists his signature. Notably, Trump didn’t call on officials to get tough on the heavily armed white protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building over coronavirus stay-at-home orders just a few weeks ago. 

US mayors and their police chiefs have publicly claimed that they do understand – agree with, even – the anger currently spilling out onto their streets. But as long as they continue to respond to that anger by deploying large numbers of armed and armored law enforcement personnel who do not actually live in the cities they serve, who appear to be more outraged by property damage and verbal insults than by the killings of black Americans at the hands of their peers, and who are enmeshed in a dangerously violent and racist policing culture that perceives itself to be the real victim, it is hard to see how this crisis will improve anytime soon. 

Sommer Mathis is the editor of CityMetric.