Leader comment: The real treason is Brexiteers' myths

European immigrants are vital to the British economy, just as an alliance with EU is to the UK.

David Campbell Bannerman called for those 'working undemocratically against UK through extreme EU loyalty' to be charged with treason
David Campbell Bannerman called for those 'working undemocratically against UK through extreme EU loyalty' to be charged with treason

It must surely be a matter of profound regret among leaders of the Remain campaign that they allowed the effects of immigration to be so utterly misrepresented in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.

Nigel Farage stood in front of a poster showing a queue of refugees with the slogan “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all” – an image compared to a Nazi propaganda – while others peddled the myth that EU immigration had helped cause austerity.

Since the referendum, various employers appear to have woken up to the serious risks posed by a shortage of labour if the UK leaves the Single Market and ditches freedom of movement, as Theresa May has insisted will happen.

The latest sign of trouble comes from our schools, with the number of teachers from other EU countries – like Greece, Poland, Spain and Ireland – applying to work in Scotland “falling off a cliff”.

In 2017, some 186 EU teachers sought registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, but so far this year just 14 have done so. This comes at a time of teacher shortages with some 700 vacancies in Scotland at the start of the year.

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Nine out of ten UK employers report they are struggling to recruit staff with the skills they need, threatening the ability of the UK economy to compete. Wages could rise as employers are forced to compete for a smaller pool of available workers, but this may prove to be a short-lived boon if firms with fewer skilled staff and higher costs start to lose business to their EU rivals.

And the economic chaos caused by a no-deal Brexit could further exacerbate what is already an alarming situation.

What is equally important is the attitude adopted by our elected politicians towards the EU, described recently by Donald Trump as a “foe” while he cosied up to Vladimir Putin.

Conservative MEP David Campbell-Bannerman yesterday claimed the Treason Act should be amended to apply to “those in future actively working undemocratically against UK through extreme EU loyalty” because, like “extreme jihadis”, they were “seeking to destroy or undermine the British state”.

We should have welcomed immigrants to this country, but instead we turned them into scapegoats for austerity.

Now there is a serious risk of another dangerous myth gaining a foothold in the public’s imagination – that the friendly democracies of the EU are in some way our enemy.