Imagine a factory pumping out widgets to be bought by British consumers. Now imagine that of all the workers, none of them are British. Scandalous, right? These immigrants have taken the jobs of some hardworking Brits. Well actually no, because that factory could be based in Ukraine, or Germany or Japan. In terms of jobs, free trade is as bad as immigration.
When you buy a product from a foreign company you are depriving a British person of a job. It sounds nonsensical, but it is the same argument used against immigration. They are both ‘foreign’ workers, they are both providing goods that Brits buy, and by having the job and providing the goods they are occupying a job that otherwise could have been filled by a British worker. The only difference is immigrants produce goods and spend their wages here, whilst free trade means that goods are imported from elsewhere, and the wages are not spent here.
Where is the outrage? Not only are hardworking Brits forfeiting their jobs for foreign workers but the money is being taken out of the British economy! Free trade is even worse for Britain than immigration.
These lines of argument seem stupid because they are. Opposition to immigration is as stupid as opposition to free trade. The ‘jobs pie’ is not fixed but grows; this is the simple lump of labour fallacy. The more efficient and productive the workers, the more the ‘pie’ expands. Free trade, like immigration, is about individuals making voluntary choice. In the former, consumers buy foreign products because they are cheaper or better quality than their domestic counterpart. In the latter, factory owners and bosses buy foreign labour because they are cheaper or of better quality that their domestic counter part. The two in jobs terms are absolutely the same. If a product is made outside of Britain or made by a foreign worker inside Britain it is still not a British person who has the job.
The argument on free trade has mostly been won; it benefits everyone to have global competition. Consumers get the best value for money and all businesses are forced to compete and lower their waste, becoming more efficient and productive. But somehow the anti-immigration brigade are allowed to pull out their fallacious claims about job stealing immigrants. Open border immigration means job competition. Consumers get the best value for money, workers are forced to become more efficient and productive.
Immigration and free trade are a pair; stop immigration and not free trade and immigrants will go to other countries. Their businesses will get the best labour and British business will go out of business because they can’t compete. Immigrant workers in Britain are more productive – they even pay more tax on average than British workers do.
It is inconsistent and logically bankrupt to oppose immigration but support free trade. All the arguments you can make for free trade apply to immigration, and all the economic arguments you can make for immigration apply to free trade.