It’s ‘be horrible to immigrants’ time again. David Cameron is running scared of UKIP and proposes to tell councils who they should allocate houses to. So much for localism. He proposes to restrict access to benefits for people from EU countries which may be unlawful under European law. This probably suits him as a further stick to beat Brussels with. As a policy it is anyway unworkable.
He can’t have it both ways and neither can European politicians generally. We have free movement of capital and a single market. Free movement of people is a logical consequence. Some people here don’t want to see that. Many are trapped in fallacies of the king that say ‘we have a million unemployed and a million employed migrants. Therefore immigration is causing unemployment.’
This is a fallacy based on a view of the economy as static with a fixed volume of employment. In effect immigration and employment is a zero sum game on this analysis. The most obvious new immigration into the UK is from Poland. It is worth taking a look at the Poles. There are now so many of them that they have an infrastructure of their own, shops, cafes, hairdressing salons, newspapers etc. Many Poles work in these businesses and the jobs would disappear if they left. In any event knowledge of the Polish language is a prerequisite for many of these jobs.
The businesses also create opportunities for the British businesses who supply them. They also generate tax income. A number of Poles have set up businesses providing goods and services to the wider community. Guess what? Many of them employ British people,
The presence of significant numbers of generally young, enterprising and hard working people stimulates economic activity and we have a desperate need for any kind of economic stimulus.
Generally immigration is a good thing. It is also, if you subscribe to free market thinking, self correcting. Once the labour market becomes saturated, the marginal economic advantage from moving here will reduce to a point when potential migrants will opt to stay at home. Simple really. The problem is that politicians who lay lip service to neo-liberal nostrums don’t really believe them, especially when the Daily Mail is in full steam.
Immigration is also culturally beneficial. The idea that Englishness arose in isolation from the rest of Europe is laughable. Look at our language. Ours is a West Germanic tongue with significant overlays of Scandinavian, Latin and Norman French. I have used words from all four sources in writing this piece. Immigration has made the English language what it is, a thing of exceptional richness and beauty.
One final remark. I like curry, I like crispy fried duck, I like pizza, I like pierogi. I look forward to trying Rumanian food.