The EU Migration Crisis – a test for conservative values?


Unless, like Diogenes of Sinope, you’ve been living in a large ceramic jar for the past few years, you will be aware of the EU migration crisis sweeping the continent, as well as its origins, and the policies being implemented by the EU to try and tackle it.

Perhaps the most topical point of contention is the question of what is to happen to them during the UK’s negotiations for leaving the EU. The issue is complex, and renders a number of different possible scenarios; from sharing the burden of migration should we choose an EEA style post-Brexit deal, to not taking on any whatsoever. Closer to home are the Calais migrants, which France has vowed to relocate, and has begun doing so, but is, it is very clear, struggling. There has been some speculation that Theresa May’s government may have to face the migrants both being used by others, and potentially even by Britain itself, as bargaining chips – and straight away, we find a reason to despair even now at the moral degeneracy that Brexit will make both parties stoop to.

The UK’s negotiations for EU exit are complex

No matter which side of the debate you stand on, whether you oppose migration on culturally conservative grounds or economic grounds, or whether you wish to welcome them with open arms, it cannot be denied that the wars in the Middle East and the displacement of people is not only one of the most challenging political crises of our time, it is one of the most tragic human crises too. As with all humanitarian crises, especially those on such a large scale as this, we are faced with a dilemma: do we do what seems to be morally right and help as many people as we can, allow them to relocate to our countries, even temporarily to escape their suffering? Do we err on the side of caution and place a blanket ban on accepting migrants from war torn countries? Or do we try to find a balance between the two? British politics is polarised, with sizeable portions of the population backing the first two solutions. What has dismayed me is the lack of discussion of the third option.

The displacement of people is a tragic human crisis

On the one hand, I am a conservative, this much is true, and many associate the conservative standpoint with opposition to immigration, especially that which is perceived to be mass immigration. In a sense this is true, I believe that a sovereign nation should have control of its borders, and that immigration, whilst it certainly can be economically beneficial, should not be pursued to an excessive degree. I certainly do not agree with any kind of “open border” policy which some on the left like to proffer from time to time, that however is another story. As a traditional one nation conservative, I always try to reconcile the pragmatism in my ideology with a sense of morality and care for the vulnerable. If Theresa May is to lead a truly one nation Conservative government, she must seek to do the same.

I believe a sovereign nation must have border controls

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On the one hand – would it be practical to accept all migrants in an open door style? I would say no. Not only would it be great economic cost merely to organise such a reception at a time of relative economic hardship, but it would include a threat to national security, and given the recent instability in Europe, I do not think such a move could ever be considered wise. On the other hand, using human being as bargaining chips in a political game of monopoly is not something I can ever condone. We must remember that the vast majority of migrants are ordinary people, and as such ought to be treated with respect and have their circumstances considered. Many are also desperate, which adds to the urgency of finding a solution.

I doubt we will see the Calais border moving despite some feathers being ruffled in France, since the treaty establishing the border on French territory is bilateral between the UK and the French Republic, and that would need to be renegotiated between those countries if it was to change. So what can we do? Well, Britain will leave the EU at some point, with some kind of deal, either with or without freedom of movement.

Using human beings as bargaining chips is wrong

If Britain is to retain freedom of movement, we will have to share the common burden of migration, that is a foregone conclusion. Not only is it an obligation of such an agreement, but it would simply be impossible under the circumstances not to participate in distributing migration across countries under the agreement. If, as many suspect, and I personally believe, we will not retain freedom of movement, then whilst we may not cooperate directly with European countries in relocating the migrants, we must not cut our ties with these allied nations in helping them deal with this crisis. We still have a heart, and British charities and organisations must continue to, as they do now, help those who are desperately in need of basic humanitarian supplies and comfort.

Freedom of movement means sharing the migration burden

We must consider which option we are more prepared to choose, both morally and economically. The facts are out there, and both have their advantages and disadvantages, it is merely a case of seeing what the EU is willing and is not willing to work with us on during this process. One thing is for certain – never can we ignore the suffering of human beings, and never is it acceptable to make war on other human beings save for your own national defence. Such wars sow the seeds for the suffering that we are seeing seep into Europe even now. Perhaps action to try and bring the conflicts in the Middle East to a close could be a start.