Thursday, August 31, 2017

Immigration is good, but not too much.

Because of the bank holiday weekend, I had to write my Oswestry and Border Chronicle article last Friday. It was published today. I wrote it on the back of last week's net immigration figures, which reported a significant fall. Anyway, it's a controversial subject which excites opinion. Here it is;

"The level of immigration is a very important issue for the British people. It was probably the most significant factor in their decision that the UK should leave the European Union in last year's EU Referendum. They wanted the UK Government to have direct control over immigration, and thought the current level  to be unsustainably high. Personally, I did not share the widespread concern, but did think a net increase in UK population of over 300,000 every year was too high, and if continued over decades would lead to social problems. This is why this week's  figures, showing a large reduction in net immigration are to be welcomed.

As always, much of the discussion about this change misses the reality behind what's happening. So easy (and inaccurate) to attribute the fall in numbers to EU citizens returning home simply because they feel less welcome in the UK since the referendum vote. The reality is much more complex. Firstly, the economies of countries from where EU immigration has been greatest are becoming more economically successful. Many of those who saw opportunity for work and supporting their families by moving temporarily to the UK can increasingly see good opportunities at home. And secondly, the fall in the value of Sterling has significantly reduced the value of money returned to Eastern European countries from the UK.

As the UK leaves the EU, the debate about immigration will change. As the level of EU net immigration falls, some UK business sectors will have recruitment difficulties. The most obvious example is in the harvesting of seasonal fruit and vegetable crops. There could also be problems in the social care and hospitality industries, where immigration from the EU has delivered much needed employees. To avoid damaging disruption, we must try to ensure change is gradual and manageable.

Again personally, I've never thought that immigration from Europe will be a long term problem. But immigration from the rest of the world will be. The mass movement of people from areas of conflict in the world, and from areas of drought, will increase hugely. Again, a manageable level of immigration is generally good, boosting economic growth and cultural understanding across the world. What those who voted 'Leave' last year wanted was to be in control of the change that has always been a feature of life in Britain. 

No comments: