IMMIGRATION, conducted in a controlled and sensible manner, is undoubtedly a good thing for Britain. New migrants stimulate demand, provide a fresh pool of ideas and talent, and add to the rich cultural tapestry of our vibrant nation.
A good example can be found in the Ugandan Asians who fled the Amin regime in 1972. These migrants created prosperity in the areas of Britain where they settled. Many subsequently rose to the top in all walks of life (Priti Patel MP being a case in point). Immigration also provides vital workers to perform jobs that British people are unwilling or incapable of doing.
However, ‘mass immigration’ creates more problems than it solves. When migrants arrive in sustainable numbers over a number of years, they can more easily integrate into national life. They are compelled to mix and communicate with persons outside of their own culture and background. But mass immigration allows migrants to remain within the ‘comfort zone’ of conversing solely with their own cultural and linguistic cohort. This means that communities become segregated, and a sense of mutual mistrust develops.
Between 1997 and 2010, over 3 million migrants came to the UK while one million British citizens emigrated. Ed Miliband has conceded that Labour ‘got it wrong’ by allowing uncontrolled immigration.
England is already the most crowded region in Europe. Yet, based on current levels of net migration, the UK population is projected to rise to 70 million by 2027. This means a further seven cities the size of Birmingham must be carved out of Britain’s dwindling countryside.
From January 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians will have unrestricted rights to live and work in the UK. It is estimated that immigration from these countries could amount to 250,000 over a five-year period. This large influx of people will create a number of problems. It will reduce wages at the bottom end of the labour market, affecting vulnerable workers the most. It will put further pressure on the environment, schools, transport and the NHS.
Boris Johnson has urged the government to renegotiate the terms by which Bulgarians and Romanians will be able to live and work in Britain from 2014. London’s Mayor warns that the thousands of new EU migrants – many of whom will head for London – will lead to far more ‘rough sleeping’ and crime.
In response to these concerns, the government has mooted the idea of a possible ‘negative advertising’ campaign to deter would-be migrants from leaving these EU states. The ad is likely to highlight state benefit restrictions and Britain’s bad weather. Further plans include ‘emergency’ rules to block EU migrants (though it is unclear how this could be achieved legally). A more viable option would be to increase the difficulties for EU migrants to access public services
Although Greece, Italy and Spain have proved popular destinations for Romanian migrants in the past, the uncertain state of these countries’ economies – coupled with high levels of youth unemployment – are likely to mean that Britain is the primary destination for many.
In the economic realm, few deny the importance of maintaining a ‘balanced budget’, both personally and at the national level. A similar approach should be taken on immigration. Balanced migration would mean that the number of immigrants settling permanently in the UK is at parity with the number emigrating. This would ensure that Britain retains the many benefits of sustainable immigration whilst, at the same time, is able to avoid the social and economic problems which can result from mass immigration.
Britain cannot control immigration from the EU. However, over the last two decades only around 10% of immigrants came from the EU. The vast majority come from developing nations, and it is this immigration that Britain should seek to limit.
If a policy of balanced migration were put in place tomorrow, the UK population would remain stable at about 66 million by 2050 (this is in contrast to current estimates of 80 million). British industry would be encouraged to train British workers, and those migrants who do come to Britain would find it easier to integrate. Furthermore – and a point that is often ignored in the UK immigration debate – balanced migration would reduce the ‘brain drain’ in developing countries.
The key to immigration, as with so much else, is balance.