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Ensure there is no backlash against foreign workers says Lord Kerr, Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell

Published: February 6 2009 02:00 | Last updated: February 6 2009 02:00

From Mr Roland Rudd and others.

Sir, At this time of economic difficulty and real hardship for many people, it is more important than ever to cherish the principle of the free movement of labour in the European Union. This has been called into question by the strikes at the Lindsey oil refinery and elsewhere. The fundamental principle of the European single market is the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour. This means that continental European companies can invest in the UK; such investment generates economic growth and productivity. Similarly it enables UK companies to trade easily and invest in the rest of Europe. It is estimated that the single market is worth £20bn annually to the UK.

Furthermore, the free movement of labour is a cornerstone of the European market. The contribution of EU economic migrants to the UK economy has been extensive. Since 2004, people from eastern European countries have plugged skills gaps in the labour market and provided a boost to the British economy. The so-called “Polish plumber” and others from eastern Europe have made massive contributions in the private and the public sector, including the National Health Service. With the economy now contracting, many of them are returning to their home countries. In the other direction, approximately 1.6m Brits now live and work elsewhere in the EU.

There is an urgency for all politicians to ensure that there is no backlash against foreign workers. The key response to the current economic malaise is for Britain to stay internationalist and outward-looking, ready to receive foreign investment and workers, and also take our people, ideas and companies to Europe and beyond.

Roland Rudd
(Chairman, Business for New Europe)
Guy Dawson
(Founding Partner, Tricorn Partners)
Lord Kerr
(Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell)
Paul Marshall
(Chairman, Marshall Wace Asset)
Vijay Patel
(Chief Executive, Waymade Healthcare)
Sir Michael Rake
(Chairman, BT Group)
Anthony Salz
(Executive Vice-Chairman, NM Rothschild & Sons)
Bill Thomas
(Senior Vice-President, EMEA, EDS, an HP Company)
André Villeneuve
(Chairman, Liffe)

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