One of my favourite columnists, Ian Dunt, has written a great article on the grumpy reception of the UCL immigration report in some quarters and the fact that escapes so many immigration miserabilists:
“The weight of the evidence on the economic benefit of immigration is now so substantive that the debate can be laid to rest. This country is spectacularly lucky. We get people at the point in their life when they are net contributors, skip the bit at the beginning of their lives where you actually have to educate them, and very often the bit at the end where they cost the state in medical care. Meanwhile, our own older people leave Britain to go live in Spain in their hundreds of thousands, at precisely the stage of life where they are about to cost the state more. The fact Britain could be such a winner from this situation and still complain about it is testament to the stubborn negativity of many people on this island.”
Dunt identifies that the economic argument for migration is more or less settled now. And perhaps things are about to get interesting, as those staunchly opposed to immigration are left to talk about what really bothers them: difference. Danny Finklestein hinted at this a few weeks ago in the Times, as have a few other commentators.
“Without the economics to fall back on, anti-immigration campaigners, politicians and newspapers want to make up the facts. Instead, they should show some honour and fall back on the real argument that motivates them: cultural purity. There is no shame or offence in arguing that they do not want all these foreign cultures coming and changing the social landscape in the UK. It is a valid point to make and not a racist one. But let them argue it, rather than pretend it is about the economy. Economically, their policy proposal would do this country extraordinary harm. It’s up to them to show that the cultural benefits would be worth it.”
It may not be racist to talk about immigration or to feel uncomfortable about it – but we’re rarely honest about what exactly does cause that unease.