Do not let migration determine Britain’s place in Europe – Martin Wolf –

DALIAN/CHINA, 12SEPT09 - Martin Wolf, Associat...

DALIAN/CHINA, 12SEPT09 – Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator, The Financial Times. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this excellent, must-read article in the FT Martin Woolf concludes that immigration is not a good reason for choosing Brexit. But he concedes that migration might well determine the outcome of the referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU because immigration is tangible and personal. Wolf suggests that immigration challenges people’s sense of identity in a way trade does not. #

Source: Do not let migration determine Britain’s place in Europe –

The bottom line from this analysis is that whilst  immigration is indeed a challenge, a dynamic economy can gain from importing people who both want to work and have the skills to do so.

I support Martin Wolf‘s suggestion for a massive program of house-building and infrastructure investment. This, of course, is the Keynesian argument that has been largely rejected by George Osborne‘s economic policy.


One response

  1. Martin Wolf in this piece from the FT is right to say that immigration challenges a person’s sense of identity and he is right to call for a massive programme of housebuilding although he does not say of what kind.

    There is a practical issue here whereby we have a shortage of 12 million houses and a build rate of 100,000 a year, plus a shortage of construction workers, an inability to make bricks fast enough and a lack of other skilled tradesmen to do the other work, such as plastering and carpentry which has to be done before a house of conventional construction can be built.

    The matter does not end there because successive governments of different political persuasions refuse to deal with the idea of systems building and the 3D printing of houses or the idea of building skyscrapers, hostels for benefit recipients or building underground.

    The question of Adult Social Care recipients and the possibility of treating them and looking after them abroad in warmer climates such as India remain taboo and the effect of the Mortgage Market Review is effectively pricing houses out of reach of any first time buyer earning less than £64,000GBP a year and without a perfect credit rating.

    Until these practical issues are dealt with it will take 120 years to deal with the present backlog of housing let alone taking in more people at a time when we have double the population that the country can afford based on the Government’s own detailed analysis.

    The Economist has said that the present levels of immigration would have happened anyway and are a good thing which we should embrace.

    I can buy this up to a point because my own parents came to this country from Italy to do work which the indigenous population did not want to do and often refused to do, under a scheme at the time which permitted entry subject to you having a job to go to with an approved employer and not becoming a public charge if you subsequently lost it.

    In the future we can expect AI, robotics, cybernetics and automation to undertake many of these jobs starting with lorry drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers and call centre workers, cleaners and warehouse staff. We will not need unskilled migrant labour to do this work so there will be no need to accept more people we neither need nor want to come here without the means for us to house them or the roads and infrastructure to enable them and us to move about.
    Taking the Economist’s argument ,”They would have come here anyway”, head on, are they seriously suggesting that the accession of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey by 2021 to the EU is not going to add further to population growth? This is particularly relevant given that wage rates and living standards in those countries are 1/5th of ours and about 1/18th of Germany’s.

    We have heard nothing about transitional arrangements and nothing very much about the deliberate undercounting of migrants (250,000 were supposedly not counted last year by the ONS) and this may or may not include the nearly 700,000 people issued with NI numbers as opposed to the 265,000 people who came here as migrants on an official basis last year.

    The David Cameron deal on EU reform is not legally enforceable and neither is the “Emergency Brake” which would require unanimous approval from all 28 member states before it could ever be applied and in future, as many as 32 or even 33, in the event that Ukraine is allowed to join.

    It is not a question of identity but a question of practicality, logistics and the retention of culture and our Judeo Christian heritage which Turkey of all the proposed EU accession countries,does not share.

    Martin Wolf and the FT have failed to address these practical issues and so have UK Governments for the past 70 years, so we have to conclude that until they are “There really is no more room at the inn”.

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