London needs foreigners to work and contribute, but it doesn't want them

Two plus two equals four, but for the vast majority of British voters, when it comes to immigration, two plus two should equal zero, or at most one.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 16:24
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London needs foreigners to work and contribute, but it doesn't want them

Two plus two equals four, but for the vast majority of British voters, when it comes to immigration, two plus two should equal zero, or at most one. If people are asked if they want Filipino nurses to come to the country to fill the gaps in public health and care for the elderly, they say of course. Open the gates to foreigners picking strawberries and asparagus and driving trucks? What a remedy, because the locals refuse to do it. To foreign students who pay tuition at elite universities? Also, or they will go under and the country will lose its soft power. Asylum seekers fleeing persecution? Well, that is less clear, let's say that only in the most dramatic cases... But that the sum is rather low.

In the year 2022, according to figures published yesterday by the National Statistics Office, almost 1.2 million people from abroad settled in the United Kingdom, while 557,000 left. The result is an estimated net immigration of 606,000, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak immediately described as “too high”, prompting opposition leader Keir Starmer to claim in the Commons that “the government has lost control”. It is as if in the middle of the fog the house of Tócame Roque from the popular proverb, the zarzuelas, the sainete by Ramón de la Cruz and the novels by Pérez Galdós had appeared, an English version of the traditional corrala on Barquillo street, jaranera, overcrowded, dilapidated, chaotic, the scene of constant fights and brawls, but without chotis music and with Libyan and Afghan refugees instead of poor Madrid residents.

The far-right Nigel Farage goes further and admits that "Brexit was a failure and only served to show that our politicians are as useless as those of the EU" (perhaps he is not without a point of reason in that). Because if the objective of breaking ties with the continent was to "control the borders" and reduce immigration, the reality is quite the opposite. It is true that the end of freedom of movement for workers has made the UK less attractive to Spanish, French and Italian boys, and that many Poles have returned home, but this was more than offset in 2022 by the arrival of 114,000 Ukrainians fleeing from Putin and 52,000 Hong Kong victims of Chinese repression, Indian and Nigerian students

The net increase in immigration has been 20% compared to 2021, with the arrival of 151,000 citizens of the European Union (more than 200,000 left), and over a million from the rest of the world, including 76,000 asylum seekers political (barely 8% of the total), almost all in small boats across the English Channel. Downing Street has attributed it to "exceptional circumstances that will not happen again."

Every British prime minister since David Cameron has promised to cut immigration, which before Brexit was around a quarter of a million people a year, has skyrocketed. The theory that those at home would take the jobs of European Union citizens, acquire new skills and raise salaries has turned out to be a fallacy. The strawberry is still picked by the Romanians, and the injections are given by nurses from Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, 5.2 million natives live on social subsidies, of which four million are not even looking for work.

The figures on immigration have been put on the table in the midst of a debate about what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be in post-globalization, and the divisions of the Conservative Party, where an important sector wants Trumpism and assume the banners of the extreme right in the culture war (persecution of white men, threat of multiculturalism, siege of the nation state and Christian family values, reverence for tradition, resistance to social change and climate change policies, catastrophism, denunciation of "global Marxism" ”, the lack of births, collectivism and woke culture).

"Conservatism is order or it is nothing" and "We must not bury the nation state because the Germans screwed up twice last century" were two of the slogans at a conference held last week in search of a new course for the right. But in the house of Tócame Roque, order does not exactly prevail. The English don't really believe in the existence of a world beyond their borders, with other rules, other values, other truths. But that world is getting inside them. Two plus two is four.