The United Kingdom and its impossible arithmetic

Two and two make four, but for the vast majority of British voters, when it comes to immigration, two and two should be zero, or in all fairness, one.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 22:59
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The United Kingdom and its impossible arithmetic

Two and two make four, but for the vast majority of British voters, when it comes to immigration, two and two should be zero, or in all fairness, one. When people are asked if they want Filipino nurses to come to the country to fill gaps in public health care and care for the elderly, they say of course. Open the doors to foreigners who pick strawberries and asparagus and drive trucks? What a remedy, because the locals refuse it. To foreign students who pay the tuition fees of elite universities? Also, or they will leave and the country will lose its soft power. To asylum seekers fleeing persecution? This is less clear, let's say that only in the most dramatic cases... But let the sum be rather low.

In 2022, according to figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, almost 1.2 million people from abroad settled in the UK, 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 the Leader of the Opposition to claim in the Commons that "the Government has lost control".

It is as if the house of Tócame Roque of the popular proverb had appeared in the middle of the fog, the zarzuelas, the sainet of Ramón de la Cruz and the novels of Pérez Galdós, an English version of the Castilla corral on Carrer Barquillo, Jaranera , overpopulated, rundown, chaotic, the scene of constant fights and brawls, but without Xotis music and with Libyan and Afghan refugees instead of poor Madridites.

The far-right Nigel Farage goes further and admits that "Brexit has been a failure and has only served to show that our politicians are as useless as those in the EU" (perhaps he is not missing a point). Because if the aim of breaking ties with the continent was to "control the borders" and reduce immigration, the reality is 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 all this was more than compensated for in 2022 by the arrival of 114,000 Ukrainians fleeing 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 political asylum seekers (barely 8% of the total), almost all of them in transit through the English Channel. Downing Street has attributed it to "exceptional circumstances that will not be repeated".

Every British prime minister since David Cameron promised to reduce immigration, which before Brexit was close to a quarter of a million people a year, and it has soared. The theory that those at home would take the jobs of EU citizens, acquire new skills and raise wages has been a fallacy. The Romanians continue to collect the strawberry, and the injections are administered by nurses from Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, 5.2 million natives live on social benefits, of which 4 million are not even looking for work.

The immigration figures have been put on the table amid a debate about what kind of country Britain wants to be in post-globalisation, and the divisions in the Conservative Party, in which a significant section wants Trumpism and take up the flags of ultra-right in the cultural war (persecution of white men, threat of multiculturalism, siege on the nation state and the values ​​of the Christian family, reverence for tradition, resistance to social change and policies against climate change, catastrophism, denunciation of the "global Marxism", the lack of births, collectivism and woke culture).

"Conservatism is order or it is nothing" and "There is no need to bury the nation state because the Germans stuck their paw twice in the last century" were two of the slogans of a conference held last week in search of a new direction to the right. But order does not exactly prevail in this sixtieth can. The English do not really believe in the existence of a world beyond their borders, with other rules, other values, other truths. But this world is getting inside them. Two and two make four.