Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Can we stop getting so hysterical about migration. Mostly it's a good thing.


It is the end of days. As the hangovers fade in the New Year it will be to witness the spectacle of vast hordes trooping off planes, trains and boats clasping evidence of EU citizenship as proof they can work in our fine nation.

Under “transitional” rules introduced when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, migrants from these two countries can only work in the UK in seasonal jobs such as fruit picking, or if they are self-employed.

These restrictions end on January 1, 2014, and all Romanians and Bulgarians will then have the same rights to work in the UK as British citizens.

The model predicts that over the next five years from January 1 at least 385,000 migrants will move from Bulgaria and Romania – more than the population of Coventry. 

Swamped! Swamped I tell you - the pressures on our creaking public services will be too great, the schools won't have the places, the hospitals will be filled with the grannies of Roma and Bulgar migrants and we'll spend our lives speaking some sort of pidgin English.

Even if I was to accept that there'll be 385,000 arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania, I really don't believe that a country with 70 million people - 200 times that number - can't welcome some new arrivals. For sure, I want to know who is coming in and that they're doing something constructive. I'm all for putting them on a plane back home if they misbehave. But can we have a little less hysteria please?

If we want to challenge in that big bad ugly world - to compete in that ghastly "global race" some folk want to believe in - then we need migration. We need Brits to go an work in France, in Dubai and in Hong Kong. And to retire to Spain, Ireland or Florida. These international connections, the British diaspora is a vital component in our economy, in creating the links with the rest of the world we'll need for future trade and prosperity.

This works both ways. Those Romanians, Bulgarians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Russians, Somalis - all those immigrants we're so rude about - their links home generate new economic activity and benefit our nation. Not because of cheap labour or a willingness to accept the bending of employment rules but because diversity is essential to economic growth:

It is important to note how this ‘[population] churn’ helps cities. Knowledge-based economies run on the quality of ideas. Ideas are not only a function of intelligence or education, but also the depth of information a person, or a city, receives.

London is successful because it is diverse. And it has always been diverse.

So I'm with Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute on this - more free movement is a benefit not a curse:

There are lots and lots of bad things governments do that ruin people’s lives. But few cause as much harm to the poorest people as the state controls of where people can work and live that we call ‘migration policy’. Even a marginal step towards a more liberal immigration policy would allow people to create an enormous amount of wealth, and probably do more good than almost any other possible policy. 


1 comment:

Twenty_Rothmans said...

I am a migrant.

I was permitted to enter because of my ancestry - 100% English blood (I only needed 25%). Had that not been the case, my employer would have arranged it - as I'd been poached from another country (not that of my origin).

Because I'm only separated from being British, Britain and its history resonates with me. The 'in'-jokes or Cockney rhyming slang that weren't appreciated were researched and assimilated.

Simon, I love this country. Many people who live here would kill to live where I came from - they think that I'm nuts (which can't be ruled out).

However - in the last nine years there has been an appreciable shift in the demographics - in London at least. My ancestors were lucky - they were wealthy, and could afford to emigrate. They brought skills and money to a struggling and insular economy.

We are seeing the reverse here, where swathes of people from third world countries are admitted and now we face the prospect (and you should remember well the understating of the Polish influx) of yet another wave of cheap labour and expensive housing.

Please don't wonder if the Conservative vote is obliterated at the next General Election. We Tories would rather be ruled by an objectionable party for whom we hadn't voted than one for which we had.

Your political radar is usually very good, but on this issue, Simon, you are off beam.