Missing The Point On Immigration

They're a' comin...


James Kirkup, writing in The Telegraph, asks “How much would you pay to reduce immigration?”, in an article praising UKIP’s Nigel Farage for making the supposedly bold proclamation that he would rather be slightly less well-off in return for lower levels of immigration into the United Kingdom – in other words, that he is willing to pay out of his own pocket to reduce immigration.

[Farage] added: “If you said to me, would I like to see over the next ten years a further five million people come in to Britain and if that happened we’d all be slightly richer, I’d say, I’d rather we weren’t slightly richer, and I’d rather we had communities that were united and where young unemployed British people had a realistic chance of getting a job.

“I think the social side of this matters more than pure market economics.”

Kirkup, who considers this to be a “genuinely interesting” way for Farage to reframe the debate, phrases the quandry this way:

How much economic growth should we give up? How much of your fellow citizens’ prosperity, are you willing to sacrifice in order to cut the number of people entering Britain from abroad?

To be precise, how much — to the nearest £1, please — would you pay to reduce immigration?

Unfortunately, by accepting Farage’s premise that immigration is harmful in all spheres other than the economic – and the idea that immigration must automatically be a negative thing, a cause for concern or something to be ameliorated.

This is yet another argument where the two opposing sides seem to argue back and forth over an irrelevant distraction rather than the main issue. Why is it that immigration has, at times, led to divided communities and fractured society? Why must it be that immigration puts the young British unemployed at even more of a disadvantage? If only we could begin to address and turn around these key issues, surely the matter of net immigration into the UK would cease to be of almost any importance at all.

For example, we should re-examine how Britain can better to integrate and assimilate new immigrants into our society, avoiding the mistakes of countries such as France and learning from those such as the United States. How can we ensure the right balance between providing support and assistance to help new arrivals find their feet and integrate into society, and using “tough love” where necessary to ensure that the state is not enabling immigrant communities to isolate and refuse to become part of British society?

We should take a long, hard look at our education system and parenting culture and ask why it is that a young adult born and raised behind the iron curtain in an economic, political and social environment far less prosperous and nurturing than that of the UK is so often preferable, in the eyes of so many reputable and rational employers, to a British-born young jobseeker who has enjoyed all of these advantages.

And yes, we should look at the topics of welfare and the terms of our relationship with the European Union, and decide whether allowing brand new economic migrants to our shores to benefit from the welfare system that the rest of us have paid into over a longer period is really a cost that we are willing to continue to pay in order to maintain our EU membership in its current form.

None of this debate will happen as long as we accept the premise that economics aside, immigration is an inherently bad thing – to shrug our shoulders and go along with Nigel Farage’s line of reasoning, as James Kirkup and others do so willingly.

How much would people pay to have an informed debate about the real social, educational and economic issues around immigration? More than our politicians and media seem to realise.

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