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Dutch minister calls for EU freedom of movement reform

Dutch Deputy PM Lodewijk Asscher warns that free movement has 'become synonymous with a race to the bottom' 

14 January 2017, 5:50pm
The Dutch deputy prime minister, Lodewijk Asscher
The Dutch deputy prime minister, Lodewijk Asscher
Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher has called for urgent reform to the EU’s commitment to freedom of movement so as to curb immigration and wage depression.

Asscher told the BBC that free movement had led to cheap, imported labour that has undercut workers’ wages and that the Brexit vote provided a golden opportunity to change the rules.

“In essence, what we have seen happening is that free movement has become synonymous with a race to the bottom, with undercutting of wages, with unfair competition in the labour market and that has to do with the rules Europe has produced itself,” Asccher said.

“On a scaffolding site, you can see a Romanian or Portuguese painter doing the exact same work as a Dutch painter right next to him that is allowed to earn two, three, four hundred euro less than the Dutch worker,” he added, referring to EU rules that allow companies to temporarily send workers to other member states without having to comply with local social security obligations.

He said that enforcing the principle of equal pay for equal work would rein in EU immigration.

The Netherlands’ far-right Freedom party – which is gaining in the polls ahead of the March election – is heavily critical of immigration and wants the country to leave the EU.

In a separate development, Asscher said that the Netherlands will block any post-Brexit trade deal between the EU and the UK if the latter does not sign up to stringent tax avoidance rules.

“Let’s fight the race to the bottom for profits taxation together, which threatens to come into existence if it is up to the Conservative UK government,” he wrote to EU left-leaning leaders, in a letter seen by the Guardian.