A tax on workers to pay for retirees won’t solve Wales’ ‘brain drain’ problem

Ifan Morgan Jones

Wales has for centuries had a ‘brain drain’ problem. That’s a side-effect of being on the economic periphery of one of the world’s richest regions, the south of England.

To give you an idea of how far back this phenomenon goes, it has been estimated by historians that in the 17th century about one in every six people spent some time living in London.

Indeed, the economist Brinley Thomas suggested that if the industrial revolution had not happened Wales’ would likely have been almost completely drained of its young talent.

They would have left for London or the United States, and Wales would have become a ‘costa geriatrica’ of elderly retirees.

With the industrial revolution having now long receded into the past, the Welsh economy is once again stuck in a rut.

Things are likely to get much worse before they get better, with a hard Brexit set to literally decimate the Welsh economy.

If this happens the ‘brain drain’ is likely to accelerate further, with young people gravitating towards the prosperous areas that are set to be less affected by Brexit, such as, of course, London (plus ça change).


Of course, as people of a working age move out the housing stock is more likely to be snapped up by elderly retirees from elsewhere in the UK, exacerbating the problem still further.

I call this a problem not because of ageism but because this elderly population will need to be cared for.

When the bulk of the current ‘baby boomer’ generation hit their late 70s and 80s and just keep going, the burden on the Welsh Assembly’s already-creaking budget will be enormous.

Research by the Wales Public Services 2025 think tank has found spending on social services for over-65s by Welsh councils would need to increase by 18% (£101m) over the next decade just to maintain the current level of spending per-person.

Politicians have been slow to face up to this problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a long-term problem that goes far beyond the next election.

Second, this older cohort vote in much larger numbers than the young, so the problem needs to be approached with sensitivity.

Thirdly, the issue of retirement into Wales is a sensitive one for a Labour government keen to avoid any accusations of crypto-nationalism.

As a result, this is the biggest challenge facing Wales but the Welsh Government does not seem to be in a particular hurry to do anything about it.

No incentive

This week a solution was suggested by Finance Minister Mark Drakeford, which was an income tax in order to fund elderly care.

The average wage earner would pay “somewhere between £250 and £300 a year” and that money would go into a fund dedicated to elderly social care.

On the surface, it’s a good, workable solution. But I’m concerned that they’re on the wrong track here, for a handful of reasons:

The challenge here is not really to find money to care for the elderly but to find a way to convince people to stay and spend their working lives in Wales.

If that happens then the income tax that they produce will close the funding gap.

Far from achieving that, this tax would be an extra incentive to leave the country, on top of all the economic incentives there already are.

In effect, we’ll be asking people to stay put in a comparatively poor part of the UK where jobs are scarce, and pay an extra £300 pounds on their income for the great pleasure of doing so.


The pattern of young people moving out of Wales and elderly people moving in also raises questions of fairness.

Will people be able to avoid this tax all their lives and then return, or arrive for the first time, and reap the rewards?

Prof. Gerry Holtham, who suggested this new form of national insurance, has said that those who retire to Wales should not able to take advantage of the fund.

However, again, with Labour’s aversion to any accusation of crypto-nationalism, and fear of conservative voters in key marginals, how likely would such a provision be?

And if Wales does become Brinley Thomas’ ‘costa geriatrica’, will there be a financially viable Welsh state still in existence when today’s young people reach an age when they want to take advantage of this fund?


While it’s encouraging to see the Welsh Assembly getting to grips with this problem, the impression given is that they think that a band-aid will cover a festering, centuries-old wound.

The only solution to this problem – short on another industrial revolution – is a transformation of Wales’ economy from a peripheral backwater.

When Wales is a country young people want to move to, and the elderly retire away from in order to take advantage of lower cost of living elsewhere, the problem will be solved.

This does not, however, seem to be a problem that the Welsh Government has any real idea how to solve.

Whatever the solution, it probably involves incentives, rather than disincentives, to stay in Wales.

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  1. The irony of asking the young, who voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, to shoulder the costs of the care of the elderly, who voted overwhelmingly to make the country poorer, and remove the younger “foreigners” who contributed so much to the economy, and thereby also to their pensions, won’t be lost on them.

  2. Dafydd Thomas

    There is no practical alternative to independence. The huge social care bill is not only because a third of retired come from england but also the immigration of sick and disabled from England. Professor Holtham at least is addressing the problem which is to a large extent imported from England. But we have to remember that Welsh labour MPs are a menace, they opposed rail devolution which cost us £5 thousand million pounds in Wales while the labour leader for Wales is bragging in the new statesman that he has managed to get a couple of hundred million investment into Wales from the USA. I don’t decry his efforts but it’s one step forward and many steps back for the Welsh economy with Welsh labour.

  3. Benjiman L. Angwin

    Ceidw trethi is ein pobl iau.

    Cyll trethi uwch drysor ein crefftwyr.

    Cloriannwch hyn.
    Bo dewis rhwng sosialaeth a’r Gymraeg.

    Pa un a ddewisech?

    • Once again, a load of rot. The only choice there is for the continued existence of the Welsh language are socialist values! Capitalism has been, and still is engaged on the wholesale destruction of the Welsh language, though i have to admit that Brit socialism hasn’t been any better.

      • Y Ferch Ddarogan

        The LaAnguage?

        We are socialist! Socialism or the Language? We are socialist! EQUALITY! The language wont feed our CHILDREN! Our country is socialist!

  4. Hywel Nantceiro

    Interesting article which however does not give the whole story. I am one of the geriatrics who are discussed in the article but have lived in Wales all my working life despite working much of the time in England: for 12 years in London, then for another stint mostly in Bristol but in London.also. I was not alone: travelling in the train to and fore I used to meet lots of men (mostly) but some women who did the same thing: many barristers living in Wales who worked all their professional lives in London, accountants who did the same, a shorthand writer who travelled every day from Bridgend to Bristol and so on. One of the accountants I used to meet in the train at weekends as I recollect used to travel to London daily from his home in Cardiff. I did a weekend commute. Wales was our home and I am sure that none of us would have been happy to move to England to live permanently. All of us contributed financially to Wales: most of my income was spent in Wales for the purpose of maintaining my family here. I cannot see all that fundamentally changing so long as London remains such an important business centre and road and rail communications between London and Wales remain so good.

    • Dafydd Thomas


      Weekend commute is not alien to me either. I’ve been there. However with more functions of Government coming to Wales, the legal people etc will find the employment here.

    • David Thomas

      That accountant was possibly my father, who did the same. However, the train to london then took 1hr45mins, which is about as fast as the “improved speeds” we will get with electrification. I now have a similar burden, working 1-2 days in London and 2-3 days in Cardiff (a 2 hour drive from my home if I don’t leave at 6am).

      You are right, if we can embrace the opportunities of the South East and combine them with better transport and regional hubs for jobs that can be done away from London all will be better.

      The fact Is, it takes 2hrs to get from Carmarthen to Cardiff on the train. Almost as long as it does then on to London, plus as a recent report states, the commute to Cardiff is one of the worst *due to lack of investment in rolling stock*. This is also crippling the economy.

      I have started a business unit in Cardiff from scratch (inside a multi national) bringing 23 well paid jobs. this was done with zero help from government and grants, with all jobs going to people already living in Wales. This was done as a drive to do this past many internal detractors (why cardiff).

      We need more of this.

      There are plenty of jobs that we can bring to Wales, we just need the government to realise the real reasons why they are not….look up train time to Manchester compare that with the fast train London to Leicester or Nottingham. I could go on, but it’s the weekend which I need to spend time with my family as I’m away large parts of the week!

  5. If we’re going to be discussing the brain drain, we need to take a look at the Seren Network, which seems to be designed deliberately to encourage our brightest and best to leave Wales and, via Oxbridge, become assimilated into the ruling elite of the country next door. Surely this money could be better spent raising standards in Cardiff, Aber and Bangor? What other country invests like this in getting rid of its high achievers?
    I have direct family experience of this scheme. My daughter informed a facilitator at her first meeting that she was very keen to study Welsh and pursue a career in the media. Cue confusion amongst the session leaders: They don’t offer Welsh at Oxford or Cambridge. My daughter was sidelined for the remainder of the event.

  6. Eos Pengwern

    This is article is further evidence that Ifan ‘gets it’ in a way that hardly anyone else in Plaid Cymru seems to; the path to a sustainable and prosperous future for Wales does not lie in increasing taxes and increasing the footprint of the State – that always makes things worse – but in Independence, so that we can stop the Labour Party’s cynical publicly-subsidised importation of social problems from England.

    Not that that would help us at all, of course, if we were still stuck inside the EU – Free Movement would continue to apply even if we were independent, so it wouldn’t make a scrap of difference – and it’s obvious from what’s been allowed to happen in Catalonia that the EU would never lift a finger to help us gain independence. Therefore the attachment that so many in our national movement feel towards the EU is something that continues to baffle me.

    • JR Humphreys


    • Dafydd Thomas

      private industry needs less large expensive premises in London etc now. Engineers and designers can access powerful computer systems and simulators from home also expert systems will become more effective. So work will be devolved for the well educated, I know this from personal experience. Government functions will be location specific but there will be opportunities for a well educated workforce in Wales in private industry. We need a government in Wales with with control over justice etc. With more NOT less spent on the education of our children. But we need to remove ourselves from the Jurassic mentality of the Labour Party, and more especially the labour MPs. Fortunately there will be a cull of Welsh MPs soon which will be a boon with less people dragging us down. I have to say that the recent economic plan by the labour government was abysmal, they have no measurable targets, which for them is an advantage as it will not show them as a failure time after time after time.

    • Because of course we don’t want our young to be able to benefit from free movement. Stop them leaving, deny them the right!

      • Eos Pengwern

        If our young people have the world-class education that they ought to be getting (and used to get, but quite clearly aren’t getting under the current Welsh government under whom we’re sliding steadily down the rankings), then they’ll have no problem going wherever they want to, so long as they have the talent and are prepared to put the work in. In any case there’s little value in being locked into free movement within an EU which is in long term decline relative to the rest of the world; the real opportunities are in the US and Asia.

        What we need to stop is the free movement of the unemployed and unemployable from England to become burdens on the Welsh public purse, welcomed with open arms by Labour – especially since they often choose to settle in areas which are traditional Plaid Cymru strongholds. What’s not for them to like?

    • Independence is the only option for Wales !
      The EU is not perfect, a lot of our exports from Wales go to the EU and therefore leaving the EU customs union could expose us to large tariffs. Since exporting to the USA will soon be hit with high tariffs then EU is our natural trading partners.
      On the Catalonia issue the EU does not want to sanction Spain as a member. This will soon not apply to our Wales as it looks as if the UK will sanction itself by leaving !
      Wales as a newly independent state would be able to join the EU as a new state (just as Slovakia has) the UK will have no say in the matter as they will not be members and will also be outside the EU free movement zone.

  7. Gillian Jones

    I live in a small market town ,which is being overwhelmed by English retirees.They have paid their dues to England’s NHS but are now using the Welsh NHS.Are we now being asked to subsidise them even more?

  8. The Bellwether

    Interesting and apposite article. Like Hywel Nantceiro (above) I am a ‘geriatric’ Welshman who has earned a living in Wales, England and abroad (US). I still do and really resent being called a ‘retiree’. I will work at what I do until they carry me off kicking and screaming or prise the keyboard from my cold dead fingers.
    IMJ is right more needs to be done to keep working age talent in Wales. However this is easier said than done. The attractions of the ‘rest of the world’ are huge for myself, my partner and both my children or to those with ‘anything about them’. Back in the 16th century I would have been queing to be on one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ships to go to North Carolina’s settlement on the Outer Banks (and would’ve become a cropper with the rest of them). What brought us back to Wales (after many years) was not for work but because it is a safer and familiar place to bring up a young family than most other parts of the world (and believe me I’ve been there).That is very strong motivation. I remember telling my partner as we drove back into Wales along the M4 across the old Severn bridge some years ago now, ‘you realise that my (industry) career is now totally fucked!’ And it was.. until I found something else to do. It was a very unpleasant and economically difficult time and experience for me but great for the kids. I don’t regret the decision.
    So, in addition to improving the work opportunities for young people we should be making sure that Wales is a great place to bring up a family. Sadly, the damage that has been and is being done to our education and health services makes it less and less a good place for Welsh people like me to return to. The grass really is greener on the other side.

    • JR Humphreys

      So Why is it safer?

    • Eos Pengwern

      What you say rings very true; I was an early brain-drainer, working in Silicon Valley for ten years before coming back to Wales to bring up my family. When I say “to Wales”, I couldn’t prevail upon my English wife to live in Wales, partly because the standard of living, health service and schools are all self-evidently better on the Shropshire side of the border and so we’ve ended up living here in ‘East Wales’. Nevertheless I have worked in Wales the whole time, both in the technology business that I started myself on moving back here and in the engineering business I now work for as well, and have done all I can to ensure that my taxes are paid in Wales (making a point of only ever dealing with HMRC in Welsh!) It’s been hard going though – time and time again when I was trying to raise investment for my own business, I was told that it would be a piece of cake if I was prepared to relocate to Oxford or Cambridge, whereas in Wales it was a bitter struggle. Not only that, but in both businesses I’ve found that recruiting suitable staff from Wales – software engineers with good scientific and mathematical skills – is extremely difficult, precisely because those from Wales who have such talents generally leave for places where there is a wider choice of employment.

      To some extent these are problems common to any relatively sparsely-populated area, but the running-down of the education system and the disastrous decision by the Welsh Government to disband the WDA have definitely not helped.

      Sadly I reckon I need to carry on for at least another 20 years before I’ll be able to consider retiring.

      • JR Humphreys

        Gosh, I didn’t know Labour had abolished the WDA. I left as my Nordic wife couldn’t find work (due to being `too highly qualified´). But my boss in Wales couldn’t praise the WDA too highly.

  9. Robert Williams

    The range of responses that this piece has evoked, from rational apprehension – from Angharad, Hywel Nantceiro and Rob Bruce – to full-on bigotry – from many of the usual suspects – is an indication that Ifan has touched on perhaps the most important issue facing Wales: i.e. the unwanted exchange of populations, indigenous youth for incoming retirees. It’s an immense problem for which there’s certainly no simple solution. Clearly a vastly stronger economy, especially in the north and west is a large part of the answer, but how to bring that about is again a complex and demanding question. While I do not wish to deride the idea of independence, anyone who thinks that it is a silver bullet answer to these problems is indulging in self-deception even grosser than that of the ‘hard’ brexiters.
    I’m sure Ifan would not wish his argument to be taken to mean that we in Wales should neglect social care, or let our existing oldies rot ‘pour decourager les autres’. We must remember that the problem of caring for an aging population is far from unique to Wales, even if it is more acute here than in many parts of the UK, and of course sharpened by the language/culture issue. Perhaps the best we can say is the our taxpayers in Wales should not be more burdened by this than those elsewhere in Britain.
    Aware that these comments may seem a bit wishy-washy, may I conclude by wholeheartedly commending Rob Bruce’s attack on the perverse attempts to encourage our best and brightest to go to elite Englis universities? Well said, Rob!

    • What is to stop a Welsh Government from introducing legislation to make it a mandatory for all employers to give priority in employment opportunities to people resident in Wales before advertising in the rest of the UK, as a means of putting an end to the brain drain?

      What is to stop a Welsh Government from insisting that Welsh higher education institutions give similar priority to applications from sixth-formers at Welsh schools before throwing it open to all comers?

      What is to stop a Welsh Government from introducing legislation that gives priority in the housing market, and in social housing, to local residents?

      There is nothing, as far as I can see, in the current devolution settlement, that prevents such measures being enacted. What’s missing in the Senedd is the political will. We should all be writing to our AMs demanding such measures.

      As regards the use of Welsh NHS resources by elderly English settlers, obviously, no-one in this country would wish to withdraw care from those who are already here. But housing legislation in favour of local home-seekers would help to bring it to an end. If it continues at the present rate, not only shall North and West Wales be ‘latvianised’, but the Welsh health service budget will eventually be insufficient to meet the country’s needs.

  10. Robert Williams

    Sorry, I should also have mentioned the mature and interesting contribution from Bellwether.

  11. A thought-provoking piece, as usual from Ifan, and refreshing to see ‘decimate’ used in something approximating to it’s original meaning.

    Certainly Wales suffers a brain drain due to its relationship with England, but might this not happen even if Wales was independent? I ask because the brightest and best will leave almost any country if they think there’s a better alternative. Just consider the emigration from Europe to the New World and elsewhere over recent centuries, and not just from poor regions, or due to poverty, overpopulation, hunger, religious or ethnic persecution. Even as Germany was becoming the industrial powerhouse of Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century Germans were still migrating to the USA . . . and being replaced by Poles, Czechs and others.

    Here in Wales, in addition to the inevitable pull of a larger body there are other, less obvious factors at work.

    To begin with, I believe that the darker elements among the British or English establishment wish to ‘clear’ Wales in order to remove any lingering threat of secession. Don’t be surprised, no country on earth is comfortable with minorities, it’s simply a question of how they’re dealt with.

    As I write this Muslims are being burned out of their communities in Sri Lanka, the slow destruction of Tibetan identity continues, The Turkish army shells Kurdish towns and villages, while here in Wales it’s less bloody, a form of social engineering. Put simply – Welsh out, English in.

    This population exchange relies heavily a dominant Labour Party that knows little and cares less about those areas outside its fiefdoms. Every initiative, every piece of legislation passed by the ‘Welsh’ Government, facilitates the strategy. I cannot think of one thing done by Labour in Cardiff that might benefit the indigenous population over outsiders. ‘To do so would be racist’, I hear. My response is, ‘Then what’s the point of having a ‘Welsh’ Government?’

    The ‘clearance’ is no longer confined to the rural areas. The managed decline of the urban south outside of Cardiff opens up tens of thousands of cheap properties that are already being bought by private landlords, English local authorities and other bodies involved in the social cleansing we see in London and other cities. Bringing in another benefit-dependent, high maintenance population

    Independence might help stop this destruction of what makes Wales Welsh, but I wouldn’t count on it. Just look around at the quality of politicians we’ve got in Wales. And given that the monkey of socialism is still clinging to the backs of too many of us, even after independence we’d have some leftist clowns arguing that we should still ‘take in all these poor people’. Because of course there is virtue in being poor.

    Wales is dying, we all know that, and anyone who puts their faith in today’s politicians to bring the patient back to health is a fool. But enough determined people saying, ‘This has gone far enough. It stops here.’ and prepared to ACT on their convictions could curtail this bloodless form of genocide.

    • JR Humphreys

      That was like cold water over my slumbering head, R.J.

      Indeed, no more Uncle Tom talk .

    • Spot on! These problems have to become electoral issues, and a future Welsh Government must indeed confront them or cease to have any raison d’etre. I’ve suggested above that people pester their AMs with letters in the hope of forcing them to debate these issues. If this should be a waste of time, then the problems you describe will, I hope, be in the manifesto of the Plaid Newydd.

  12. It begs the question “Should a thrusting young Welsh Brain who sees an English retiree prostrate on the pavement, twitching and in need of medical aid go over and attend to them?”
    “A tax on workers to pay for retirees won’t solve Wales’ ‘brain drain’ problem” reads the Headline to the article so we have three distinct entities at play here. The Worker, the Retiree and the Brain Drain person. We do like to box people into categories don’t we? Presumably all these are human with a pulse and a heart and some compassion whatever their ethnicity. The worker if he is working in Wales is not being paid very well. Do we know what work the retiree did over the border? They might have been a very useful member of society the other side of Offa’s Dyke, they might have been testing nerve agents in Porton Down as part of UK security. They might have actually been a member of an earlier brain drain and the ethnicity stamped on their UK passport is Welsh (artistic licence) God Forbid the retiree is a Socialist because reading some of the above comments, they would definitely be left in the middle of the pavement to draw their last breath. It is a soup I agree but generalising about people who will make demands of a National Health Service whether that is in Wales or England is a dangerous road to travel especially as no palatable answers will ever be forthcoming to this puzzle.

    • I think the only practical solution is to draw a very definite line under what has happened in the past. In response to your hypothetical situation in your first paragraph, a ‘thrusting Welsh brain’ shouldn’t even need to think about whether they need help: anyone prostrate on a pavement is in need of help, so that is what they must receive, no matter their origin.

      However, as it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a correlation between the rising costs of supporting Wales’ aging population and reduced spending on our education system then there needs to be serious consideration about what needs to be done to rectify the problem. The fact remains that now we have the Assembly, our government is dependent on what is receives from Westminster, and has to pay for everything from that ever decreasing figure. I don’t mean to let our politicians off the hook, they should be making far more of a fuss than they are, but really, doesn’t the ultimate responsibility lie with us? We must remember that our politicians, who are supposed to represent us, (think about the meaning of that word: even though they appear often to present their own interests, or to tow the party line on issues. The truth is that we can’t really expect our politicians or government to reflect our views unless we a) inform them unequivocally what they are, and b) are prepared to remind them morning, noon and night about those things we see as priorities until they listen. But not that many of us have the time, or, to be quite honest, the energy to be constantly doing that.

      Perhaps we need our own specialised version of an online campaign group like 38Degrees or Avaaz that pressurises our government on our behalf? Both organisations have been extremely effective at mobilisng and making posiitive change, such as mounting so much opposition to TTIP in Europe that it was defeated, and came very close to defeating the trade agreement with Canada, as well as other crucial issues that politicians of all stripes don’t want us to know about that we need to know about.

      There is a very definite brain drain in Wales, and as Ifan pointed out, it’s something that has been in play for centuries, but the reason for this is that there is so little on offer in Wales, that staying here just isn’t a viable option, if one wants something approaching a decent life. Within my lifetime there has been a signal failure to invest adequately in the Welsh economy, to produce the kinds of jobs and diversified economy that really healthy societies possess. There is very little industry of the kind that could regenerate local economies in Wales. We do desperately need a development agency that links in all the bodies that could regenerate our economy, linking the research done in our universities with outside companies set up with government help to exploit those innovations made in the universities so that they are exploited in Wales, and don’t have to be taken elsewhere because there is literally nowhere for these ideas and innovations to be developed in Wales. Small, local enterprise needs to be encouraged, particularly where workers/people in the community cooperate to build a collective businesses that benefits the whole community.

      • Years ago, there was a large piece of graffiti on a wall in a run-down part of Cardiff saying “Wanted: jobs, homes, for Welsh people”. The sign’s gone, but Welsh people, young and older, are having to compete for jobs and homes with people from England and (for the present) the EU.

        The solution for this, as you rightly say, should lie with the Welsh Government. They will do nothing unless we badger them. It’s the very sort of issue that they should be debating in the Senedd. Instead, they have been complicit.

        Those living in Wales should be prioritised for job recruitment and housing allocation or purchase, and the Welsh Government need to find ways to give this legal sanction. And yes, we should be badgering them about it.

  13. The movement of the WDA “functions” in house was one of worst decisions taken by Labour and we are still paying the price. There was a “we can do, let’s take the risk” attitude within it. Nothing like the inept slow moving WAG that took it on then shit most of it down. Yes it was capitalism, but the ethos that Peter Walker pushed into it was a great success and we recieved so much outward investment, out of all proportion to our size within the whole country. Yes he was a Tory, but Thatcher let him get on with it. It was known worldwide as an organisation that was good with its word and for its money. We do not need more power for that to happen again, just people with the will. Then perhaps the pull of the young to the outside will be become less and the Welsh language will indeed increase in use. If a language is not used by the young of a country, then by definition, it is dying.

    I would be interested to know how Denmark manages its policies re immigration, for that is what it is. Much as it not a route I would like to take, there is a certain printers in Ustrad Mynach and a large industrial Laundry in Cardiff that having recieved much money from the bay employ a majority of EU workers. All people are equal, but I question what use that is to us as a nation when the net result is no improvement of employment prospects, the worsening the already poor housing situation and with much money being sent back to the countries of origination.

    Brexit once again comes to the rescue with its reduction of rules enabling the cultural heritage of an area to be preserved. Every silver cloud has a silver lining!

  14. Oops, so sorry “shut”! Strange how a freudian slip can be closer to the truth than I intended!

  15. Red Dragon Jim

    Does independence mean we stop free movement with England?

    This seems very strange to me as it isn’t the case with Scotland or the SNP.

    We would need a hard border with England. I feel like I have a duty to point out that this seems unrealistic, and would in no way be democratically supported.

    I can picture independence being saleable if it involves minimal disruption, allows free movement and trade with England and Scotland, and keeps the Common Travel Area which also includes Ireland.

    It would be odd for Wales to leave the CTA but for Ireland to stay in.

    Can anyone engage with these issues sensibly? Because if someone like me can’t see the practicality of immigration controls on the English, Scors and Irish, then there’s going to be a bit of a problem selling this.

    • Eos Pengwern

      I write as someone who lives in Shropshire and crosses the England-Wales border a dozen times a week…

      Free movement and free trade are not the same thing as unrestricted residency. This is true even within the bounds of the UK as it stands today: for example, there are no tariff barriers with Jersey, and you don’t need a passport to visit there, but there is no automatic right of residency for a British citizen. It is perfectly consistent to seek tariff-free trade with England, and a customs-free cross-border commute in both directions, while imposing restrictions upon who can rent or (especially) buy property within Wales.

      My own view is equally strongly in favour of free trade and free movement across the border, and strict restrictions upon residency. I see no contradiction here.

      • Red Dragon Jim

        That’s a good point although I think in Jersey the restrictions are on property rights, not residency rights. UK and Irish nationals have automatic residency rights in Jersey according to google.

        My concern is that there are no such property restrictions between Ireland and the UK, and that Jersey is not that good a comparison to Wales because its a microstate. But while an independent Wales couldn’t do anything about immigration, it could perhaps do something about property. I wonder if it would depend on our economic relationship with England? I also wonder how attractive it would be and whether England would then place restrictions on the Welsh? It merits further discussion I think.

        • Eos Pengwern

          You’re right about Jersey – it is property rights rather than residency rights per se, but the point stands that there is a precedent for restraining immigration into a part of the British Isles, which doesn’t involve tariff barriers or a hard border.

          As I see it, in Wales there are two specific and largely non-overlapping problems that need to be addressed:

          Wealthy immigrants from England buying up property in the most attractive rural parts of Wales, either as second homes or retirement homes, and so pricing out local people while depressing local economic activity and placing strain onto social and health services [it’s a completely different matter if wealthy immigrants from England or anywhere else want to come in to start and run businesses that will generate wealth and employ local people – such immigrants should be welcomed with open arms].
          Poor, economically inactive immigrants from England who find that they may as well claim benefits in Wales as in England, and who are positively encouraged to by the Third Sector that is lavishly funded by the Labour government, no doubt because if they ever vote at all then they’re overwhelmingly likely to vote Labour. Often they are put into rented accommodation owned by slum landlords who make a great deal of money out of the practice, and after a certain amount of time they come to be regarded as ‘local’ and therefore eligible for social housing.

          Ultimately both these problems derive from our economic underdevelopment – neither of them would exist if the Welsh housing stock were in high demand from successful Welsh people in productive employment – so the real solution lies in freeing up the economy and improving our infrastructure to stimulate economic growth, rather than slapping restrictions all over the place. However, Independence is both the only viable way to get to that point, and the only thing which could allow us to address either of the other issues in any way at all in the meantime.

          • Eos Pengwern

            That was meant to be an HTML bullet-point list; if Ifan is thinking of introducing a paid subscription for this site, I’ll pay it happily if he introduces a comment preview and/or edit facility, but not before then!

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