If there is one thing that the British press get exercised with and enjoy exaggerating about as much as the EU, it’s immigration.
It is used as a stick to attack the UK’s membership of the EU, which is blamed for any perceived or real increase of immigrants. Rhetoric against immigration and the EU alike has been rife recently and it has been further inflamed because Bulgarian and Romanian citizens (whose countries joined the EU in 2007) are to be given access to the British labour market at the end of the year.
But the facts are widely ignored. The charge against immigrants is that they are a burden on Britain’s welfare system. The facts seem to disagree. A study by Christian Dustman, from the UCLs Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, found that in the year to April 2009 workers from Eastern Europe contributed £1.37 in taxes for every £1 of services they used.
Native Britons on the other hand contributed just 80p for every pound of services they consumed. So, far from being a burden to our welfare system, immigrant workers make a considerable contribution to it.
Apart from ignoring the facts and being based on scaremongering and scapegoating, the current rhetoric on immigration and the free movement of people in the EU gives the impression of a nation ready to raise the drawbridge and close itself off from the rest of the world.
Boris Johnson noted recently that this attitude is “making it difficult for universities and the City to attract talent from abroad”. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, went even further when she said, among other things, that “the flurry of recent statements by senior ministers calling for a crackdown on bogus students had given the impression that overseas students were no longer welcome and was driving them towards competitor countries such as the US, Canada and Australia”.
A study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that overseas students are estimated to bring £8 billion a year into the economy, a figure projected to rise to £16.8 billion by 2025. Not a negligible sum, and one that the Government’s rhetoric and policies risk jeopardising.
Immigration is neither a burden on our welfare system nor a threat to the domestic workforce. Instead of persecuting them we should be celebrating the role they play in this country.