Like the United States, the British nation was built on successive waves of immigration. It’s our strength and our distinction.
So I’m alarmed at the outbreak of xenophobia in British politics in response to the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) on an anti-immigration platform and a pledge to leave the European Union.
It has created sheer panic in British politics, and augurs poorly for the future economic health of the nation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron now proposes a cap on the number of immigrants at 100,000 a year, although the current figure is close to 250,000 a year.
In reality, the UK should welcome immigrants. Here’s five reasons why:
1 The UK government’s own figures say so
The UK Treasury’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) calculates the economic impact of government policies. Robert Chote, head of the OBR, said earlier this year that immigration ‘does tend to produce a more beneficial picture’ for the nation’s finances.
“Because they’re more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure,” he added.
Without immigration running at its current level (or higher), it will be hard for the government to pay off its national debt. What is needed is more migration, not less. If the numbers were to fall to 140,000 a year (still above David Cameron’s target), national debt would reach almost 100 per cent of the entire economy by 2064, according to the OBR.
Other studies have produced similar figures, with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimating that the UK economy would contract by 11 per cent if immigration numbers are halved.
2 Talented, skilled people are struggling to get in
The 2014 Nobel Prize winner John O’Keefe, himself an immigrant to the UK from Canada, argues that immigration restrictions are endangering Britain’s scientific standing.
“The immigration rules are a very, very large obstacle [to recruiting high level scientists]. We should think hard about making Britain a more welcoming place.
“Science is international, the best scientists can come from anywhere, they can come from next door or they can come from a small village in a country anywhere in the world – we need to make it easier.”