Free movement of new member state nationals after 2004 constituted a quasi “natural experiment” on the positioning of West European member states’ labour markets vis-a-vis open borders, transitional barriers, and the ensuing balance of European and non-European flows, in more-or-less migration-driven economies. On the face of it, the initial UK experiment with open borders and high levels of free market governed migration from within Europe – as an alternative to non-European immigration or irregular/segmented labour markets – might be deemed a success compared to both restrictive models (for example, the sluggish dynamics of France; the exclusionary reality of Denmark) and high level alternatives (the segmented, exploitative outcome of Germany; the unregulated marginality of EU migrants in Spain). Arguably, too, the migrants and their sending states did better from the relationship: the UK getting closer to the EU’s integration theory based on a win-win-win model of migration-development. In other words, the case would pose a reversal of the usual implicit normative hierarchy in varieties/worlds of capitalism literatures, perhaps highlighting a weakness of their methodologically nationalist assumptions. However, the UK’s policy has not proven politically sustainable, and the mid to long term outcome is in doubt. The economic crisis of 2008 and after also has proven a turning point. I will consider how a political economy focus on varieties of capitalism and its search for an enlightened national market economy might be assessed by evidence on transnational free movement in Europe, in terms of key indicators such as demographic and labour market dynamics, selection effects, welfare protection, inequalities, growth performance, and economic development/integration. The focus will be on thinking comparatively about for North and North-West European cases: the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
Adrian Favell (University of Leeds)
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