The Blog

Brexit? Try Jexit As Your Job Moves Abroad

Cameron cannot be surprised that the anger of his victims is uncontrollable, and having unleashed it he is unable to point it where he wants. The furious won't be harnessed, but their jobs may disappear to the EU if they vote to leave.

As the winds have changed and the sails begin to billow for the Brexit campaign, the question of what a leave vote would mean for unemployment in the UK, one of the central issues in the debate surrounding our membership, is being considered in some detail.

The presence of voices from across the political spectrum in both campaigns makes the vote harder for those who follow one party, but economists are united: it would be a disaster for the jobs market, and we would all struggle as a result through the resulting lower tax payments and, under this government with its slash-and-burn priorities, deeper cuts to public services.

The question of how many would lose work is the subject of much discussion. And by that I mean remain have marshalled experts to provide analysis, and leave have marshalled Boris Johnson to shout about his confidence and how to make Britain 'great' again.

Those experts may disagree on the absolute number, but they are sure it will be catastrophic. Just this week Labour pointed out that the black hole in the nation's finances caused by Brexit would lead to more than half-a-million more public sector job losses on top of the ones already planned. Those who believe that this Tory government would unleash a wave of investment in the NHS, as some on the leave side pretend in the face of all the evidence of the last six years, should think again before they pencil thousands of new nurses and doctors into their employment calculations.

The warnings on overall impact on the employment market are even more stark. The CBI says one million jobs will be lost. George Osborne's second Treasury analysis says 820,000. Checking website Full Fact aggregates research suggesting anywhere between three and 4.5 million jobs are dependent on EU trade, although they make clear that not all of these are likely to be lost if we exit. That's to say nothing of the direct impact on wages; we would each be £800 per year poorer according to the Treasury.

Any recent success has been achieved within the EU, so those who say it is a drag on the economy should look elsewhere for explanations. Do you think the resulting immigration - of mainly young, often entrepreneurial and highly-skilled people - has affected your chance of getting a job or your wages? The LSE begs to differ and points to the 2008 recession as the real culprit, although the long-term movement of company payments from all workers to directors and shareholders is also likely to be key.

The rebuttal from 'leave' is underwhelming at best. Iain Duncan Smith, that discredited former Tory leader and one of John Major's original European enemies (he used rather stronger language at the time), claims there will be a jobs explosion after we leave, using that famously sharp brain to paint more in broad brushstrokes than the specific figures provided by experts.

The problem, according to Smith, "is our inability to believe in Britain", and he claims that "the truth is, the EU is holding us back completely", which will come as a surprise to the Tory government's work and pensions secretary from 2010-16, the man who claimed last year that the country's job creation was "the envy of Europe" at a time when we were fully inside it and benefitting from its economic opportunities and migration. Who was that man again?

Few are likely to base such an important decision on the ramblings of the man who designed and implemented endless benefit cuts then resigned over them on a point of 'principle'. The Prime Minister's lack of credibility is likely to be more of an issue.

As Full Fact established, past dishonesty on the issue has come back to haunt David Cameron. His insistence last month that the UK has created more jobs than the rest of the EU put together since 2010 was true only in the very narrowest sense but doesn't bear any scrutiny, the EU figure including negative numbers from struggling states. It was clearly intended to prompt casual listeners to believe that the UK was the most successful job-creating nation of the 28, whereas Germany produced 600,000 more than we did over the period. The claim is also rapidly becoming out of date and will be abandoned soon, with the wider EU - even including shrinking states - seeing more new jobs in 2015 than the UK as it recovers from its own recession.

This idea that the EU is still in dire straits is affecting many people's understanding, as shown by those who believe that Britain will be the destination of choice for the majority of movers within the area in the future. The recovery hasn't taken hold everywhere, but economic conditions are better in more countries and this is likely to act as a control on EU migration.

The facts and figures will not mollify the many angry people who crave any kind of change, and they have good reason to be angry. As the Tory project impoverished the already-poor through benefit cuts and austerity, as it pointed at immigrants and claimants as the cause while cutting taxes for the wealthiest to try to distract from the real culprits, so it is reaping the rewards now. Cameron cannot be surprised that the anger of his victims is uncontrollable, and having unleashed it he is unable to point it where he wants. The furious won't be harnessed, but their jobs may disappear to the EU if they vote to leave.