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Figure 1: Annual net migration, UK 1991-2014 (thousands). Source: ONS

The United Kingdom is at two historic turning points. They go together. Much depends on the outcome. Its rapid population growth, driven by the highest immigration in its history, is destabilising, transforming its population, its environment and its ethnic make-up into something quite new. At the same time the UK faces a choice about leaving the European Union or remaining in it. Some welcome the growth of the population and the increased diversity that it brings. For those who do not, leaving the EU offers a possibility of moderating at least some of that growth, keeping the UK in something like its present size and shape. And it is only a possibility. By itself Brexit might change nothing; it would depend on the choices made by any post-Brexit government, in particular on also leaving the European Economic Area and hence ending the commitment to the free movement of labour.

Until 1997 immigration had been off the policy agenda for 20 years, thanks to an uneasy political consensus to limit inflows. Although trending slightly upwards, immigration was not then very controversial. As soon as it was elected, however, the Blair government began to take down the barriers to migration. First, it pleased its minority voters by removing the “primary purpose rule” intended to filter out fake marriage applications. Then in 2010 a more fundamental revision of immigration policy followed. That was to welcome inflows now regarded, on the flimsiest of evidence, as being essential to the UK economy, rescuing it from population ageing and increasing ethnic diversity, now regarded as an essential asset, not a problem as hitherto. According to the Blair aide Andrew Neather, in an article in the Evening Standard of October 23, 2009, one of the aims of the New Labour policy of opening up the UK to mass immigration was to “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, promoting permanent ethnic change to the permanent advantage of Labour’s aims. In its first aim at least that policy has been highly successful, more so, it seems than its authors envisaged. The steps then taken provoked a rapid upsurge in net migration (inflow minus outflow) which continues to reach record levels: 3.3 million immigrants came to the UK from 2001 to 2014 (Figure 1).

Immigration, mostly then from outside the EU, had already reached record levels when in 2004 the Blair government, alone among the major economies of the West, allowed free entry for work to the new Eastern European EU accession countries (the “A8”) in 2004. The rapid increase in EU migration is apparent in Figure 1. Those countries had lower levels of income and social and political development relative to the EU average than earlier candidate countries such as Spain (the EU lowered the bar even further for Bulgaria and Romania in 2007). Everything known about migration pointed to a very large influx, but the government fatuously predicted that “13,000 per year” would enter. Officially, 53,000 entered in the first year and 76,000 the next; these figures are now known to be substantial underestimates. By 2013, 1.24 million people born in Eastern Europe were living in the UK, compared with 170,000 in 2004: the biggest inflow in British history. No forward planning or provision whatsoever was made for the Blairite influx. Indeed it has been so great that it would have been difficult to make adequate provision. Hence many of our present problems.

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Derek Regan
June 3rd, 2016
8:06 PM
I have never been comfortable with the net migration figures. For 2015 within the total immigrants at 630,000 there were 83,000 UK citizens. Within the total of emigrants at 297,000 there were 123,000 UK citizens. It seems therefore that the total of 333,000 should in fact be 373,000 which would better represent the net influx of non UK persons into the United Kingdom, thereby making a significant difference to the ethnic mix. Earlier years will probably show a similar situation.

May 31st, 2016
10:05 AM
To be warned today by Trevor Phillips about immigration is a bit like being warned in 1942 by the Luftwaffe about the Blitz

Observer of the Scene
May 31st, 2016
8:05 AM
In Israel and Japan, those in power care about their nation's majority race and culture and protect both by not allowing mass immigration -- and particularly not from the Third World. In the UK, we have traitors in charge who want to destroy the traditional nation. If mass immigration really were beneficial, Israel would welcome it and so would Japan.

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