Monday, September 08, 2008

A step toward reform in the UK?

There has been a surge in immigration into the UK over the past decade, with numbers now running at over 300,000 a year. This is 25 times higher than at any other period in British history over the past 1000 years.

A coalition of public figures has been formed to support some modest measures to pull back the numbers. The leaders of this coalition include former Labour Minister Frank Field, Tory MP Nicholas Soames and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.

The proposed reforms are low-key: they would not limit refugee numbers, they would not limit immigration via marriage, they would not limit immigration from within the European Union and they would not limit temporary economic migration. The only change is that there would be a cap placed on the number of permanent economic migrants.

Even these modest proposals, though, drew a predictable response from some. Jill Rutter, a spokeswoman for a "progressive" think tank, said:

We need to make migration work for Britain, rather than play to xenophobic sentiments.

So even the most minor of limits placed on open borders still strikes Jill Rutter as "xenophobic". Clearly the word has lost all meaning.

The irony is that the reform proposals are being supported not only by a range of public figures from both the left and right, but also from ethnic minorities. A leading Muslim politician, Lord Ahmed, supports the reforms as do 75% of those from ethnic minority groups in the UK.

In fact, support for a reduction in immigration is overwhelming at the moment. 81% of Labour voters and 89% of Tory voters support a substantial reduction in immigrant numbers.

As for "making migration work for Britain", there's an interesting article here on the economic results of the immigration surge over the past decade. It turns out that shortages in the labour market have increased over that time, due to extra demand being generated; therefore, rather than filling labour shortages in the economy, the wave of migration has worsened the problem.

At the same time, because employers have had access to overseas workers there has been less need to train locals; there are now 500,000 unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds.

As I mentioned, the reforms don't go very far and they have already been rejected by the Labour Party; nonetheless, it's encouraging to see a range of public figures, including trade union leaders, economists and academics, step forward to present an alternative to the current open borders policy.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to be so negative about such an encouraging if minor development, but the signing of the Lisbon Treaty and the increasing power of the European courts means that even if a major party in the UK wanted to do somthing about this it's doubtful that they could.

    Changing immigration enforcement in any way would almost certainly now require a change to the UKs relationship with the EU, which no party with a chance at government will risk. Being realistic, this is a rearguard action and basically a hopeless one.

    Australia is still master of it's own fate. A government committed to changing things and with a sufficient majority could do something. Kevin Rudds "Asia-Pacific EU", should it ever happen, would dilute this power and place it in the hands of an unelected elite.

    I raise this issue because it's important that people are aware going into such a union what the consequences are. The liberal elites who currently have to convince an electorate of their policies would be given a free hand and circumstances like that in te UK would almost certainly result.

    I've only been here a year and a half; I'd hate to see Australia ruined.