EuropeA hot topic at the moment is David Cameron’s proposals to cap immigration from Eastern Europe and its possible knock-on effect on the UK’s continued membership of the EU. Latest news is that Angela Merkel has indicated that, if Cameron persists in his plans, Germany will not support the UK remaining a member state.

I’m sure you have your own views on immigration, and many people believe that stricter control is the only way forward. We can’t however get away from the point that, if you join an organisation, you generally have to stick to its rules. My understanding is that free movement of workers between member states is an intrinsic part of ‘Fortress Europe’, and therefore to seek to cap immigration from any other member state runs contrary to that principle. If we can’t limit immigration from within Europe, the only other feasible limitation is to apply a cap to non-European immigrants (which penalises and discriminates against those other countries).

You may be asking yourself why we should be listening to Angela Merkel. That’s a simple question of relative positions. Germany has a buoyant economy, is a strong supporter of the Euro – and Angela Merkel has been in post a long time!  Politics, and indeed economics, in many cases comes down to a game of strength. Changing the rules from within is something which is almost certainly not in the UK’s power at the moment.

So what should Cameron do? Well, if I knew that I’d be the Prime Minister! He certainly needs to consider that the price of his proposal may well be leaving the EU – and what the effect of this would be on our economy, our defence and our long-term future on the world stage. Alternatively, he could look at other means of achieving his objective. For example, what contribution do European immigrants make to our economy, and how many of them are taking from us instead? The UK benefits culture is known to be one of the softest in the EU – so maybe the strategy lies in that area.

Many of Mr Cameron’s problems have their parallels in business life, so to sum up this would be my advice:

1 Think through the consequences before taking action (not just the ones that immediately spring to mind)

2 Accept that if you join an organisation you have to stick to its rules (unless you are strong enough to change them)

3 Don’t leave unless you’re sure that it’s either the best way, or the only way (usually as a matter of principle)

4 Think outside the box – in my experience there’s almost always another way to skin the cat

5 Consolidate what you have and work towards improving it, before throwing everything out

6 But if you’ve done all of that and you still think you’re right – get on and do it!

Views, anyone? I’d love to hear from you!