You want the truth on immigration? You can’t handle the truth.


November 28, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

Owen Paterson – a Conservative MP who used to the Environment Secretary, gave a speech this week in which he asked David Cameron to give UKIP supporters what they want to get them back voting for the Conservatives. What, apparently, they want is “low taxes” and “honesty about immigration”. The former is economically nonsensical, the later is simply a lie. They don’t want ‘honesty about immigration’, they want immigration to be stopped. But let’s try the ‘honesty about immigration’ bit to see how it fits and see where it gets us.

OK, so here is some honesty on immigration. It is good for the UK. Immigrants are younger, and healthier than our current population. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they received in benefits (12% more for immigrants from new EU members, 70% for immigrants from older EU members). They do jobs that British people won’t do, and work for lower pay with higher skills (more on that in a minute), cutting the costs of the goods and services we buy and the competitiveness of the goods and services we export. They teach us about other cultures, which is important in this globalised world, sell us products that expand our consumer horizons, and create businesses that create job.

They keep the NHS alive, and thus they keep us alive, and not just because of the taxes they pay which are greater than the money spent on their use of the NHS (because they tend to be young and healthy), but because of their skills – witness Dennis Skinner’s coruscating description (click here) of his “United Nations” heart bypass – “carried out by a Syrian cardiologist, a Malaysian surgeon, a Dutch doctor and a Nigerian registrar.” Being seen as hostile to non-EU immigration is reducing the amount of skilled scientists and engineers coming over here to study in our universities – both skills that we need.

THAT’s honesty about immigration. Here’s more. Some people don’t want immigration. Some people like Nigel Farage ‘feel uncomfortable’ when people speak different languages on trains. Some people, who live in constituencies that barely contain any immigrants, have a fear of the unknown that means they have genuine concerns about the impact of immigration this country.

Which takes me back to those jobs that immigrants take on for lower pay. Simple economics this. The supply of Labour has increased, pushing down wages in this country, and some people are seeing the wages they can get for their skill-set fall almost uncontrollably. When they have complained about this impact, for years they have been called “racists” and “bigots”, but, as I pointed out on Monday – they are the ‘left-behind’, and no party is talking to them other than UKIP. Yes, the party of the flat tax, the party of the MP (Douglas Carswell) who advocated the abolition of progressive taxation, the party with a leader and MP who have recently talked replacing the NHS with a private insurance system are taking votes from the old and the ‘economically disappointed’.

So now we return to what Owen Paterson was suggesting. We can’t lie to people. If we want to do business with the EU from outside the EU, like Norway, we will still have to be committed to Freedom of Movement of People. We can’t do what Paterson is asking which is to trigger the clause in the EU Treaty that serves the two years’ notice that Britain is to leave the EU, so that an “OUT” vote can be enacted immediately after the referendum in 2017, because we would effectively be leaving the EU without a referendum – and the uncertainty that will cause will cause investment to leave the country, businesses to pull out of the country, and jobs to be lost, causing unemployment for the very people UKIP says they are ‘listening to’.

The truth is that the right wing of the Conservative party are making demands that David Cameron cannot meet if he wants to win the 2015 election (for which he will need some centrist voters) in order to achieve their own political aims, whatever the economic consequences. I believe they should consider leaving the party, and stop trying to make it self-immolate. THAT’s honesty about immigration.

16 thoughts on “You want the truth on immigration? You can’t handle the truth.

  1. Mark Wallace says:

    The majority of the class essentially agree with the blog after a class discussion. As discussed in the last lesson immigrants have a positive effect on the UK, they boost the GDP. They also boost employment and reduce unemployment via the positive multiplier effect. Immigration is also likely to decrease inflation because costs will rise less quickly for businesses. We agree that there is the problem of lower wages that affect certain groups in the UK. However Mr Goldsmith did not mention the increase demand for public services such as housing and transport, these need to be funded via the increase tax revenues as a result of immigration.
    From Year 10 World Perspectives Economics Mr Wallace


    • That is correct, and since immigrants tend to be younger, healthier and more productive than the UK population as a whole a successful immigration policy will result in an increase of those tax revenues. There needs to be a massive house building policy programme anyway to deal with the mismatch between supply and demand. Same with transport.


  2. Chloe says:

    I think this is an accurate and intelligent depiction of the truth about immigration


  3. ROwan Thpppp says:

    I largely agree with what you have said. Immigration is a very positive thing for the country. However, won’t there be extra short term costs? Transport for London has been under pressure to make trains faster and other things to accommodate for the increasing number of people using their services. The changes are obviously a very positive thing in the long term and need to be done but the short term costs would be quite high.


    • The increased number of people using London Transport could be because of inward migration within Britain. People come down from Manchester to live and that can make a difference too. I have little doubt there are short term costs of immigration but in the long term if young, healthy people come, work, contribute to GDP, pay tax etc then we can fund pensions and health care into the future.


  4. Isabella Rzym says:

    I agree with what you are saying. I’d like to add that immigration can lead to increased innovation ( due to increased expertise) which is essential in improving the economy, this would result in an increase in the educational sector. Nigel Farage accuses Britain of being “unrecognisable”, this is completely wrong, Britain has become a diverse, multicultural society which again encourages creativity.


    • Interesting that you say that Nigel Farage is “completely wrong”. How do you know? It may be unrecognisable for some people in some places. People like us at Latymer benefit from immigration but some don’t, and they are worried


  5. Leo says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said, but what are your opinions on the short term costs required to support new immigrants?


    • I have little doubt there are short term costs of immigration but in the long term if young, healthy people come, work, contribute to GDP, pay tax etc then we can fund pensions and health care into the future.


  6. Elizabeth Whitehouse says:

    I strongly agree that immigration provides a young and willing workforce to the UK, which is highly beneficial for both the UK’s economy and diversity which leads to an increase in innovation/creativity. This consequently boosts the education sector through it’s diversity and multiculturalistic nature, also leading to innovation and creativity. However, in the short term, due to a greater population, there will be a strain on public services such as social housing and transport. This will cost the government quite a lot to improve and broaden these services. Ultimately, immigration is a very positive thing for their economy in the long and short term, and the ‘UKIP style leave the EU’ attitude will be very damaging to the diverse and newly thriving economy that the UK has.


    • True, I think at the moment leaving the EU would bring terrible economic and political costs. I have little doubt also there are short term costs of immigration but in the long term if young, healthy people come, work, contribute to GDP, pay tax etc then we can fund pensions and health care into the future.


  7. A says:

    I Agree with this article on the whole, but some benefits and some disadvantages of immigration are not mentioned. For example, for the working class immigration could be seen as disadvantageous because it brings down their wages, however the added tax revenue from immigration might counter balance this and this may actually lead to a better standard of living despite the lower wages. One of the other benefits of immigration is that it can act as a catalyst for innovation and creativity and the fact that it encourages against xenophobia. Lastly, in the short term there can be a big strain on public services because the increased tax revenue takes time to be spent and so in between that time there is an increased strain.


    • I have little doubt there are short term costs of immigration but in the long term if young, healthy people come, work, contribute to GDP, pay tax etc then we can fund pensions and health care into the future. The taxes that are paid by the immigrants have to be used well, but what some people in this country would like is higher wages, which might happen in their view if this ready supply of labour willing to work for lower wages wasn’t able to come to the country and walk into jobs,


  8. Omer Baddour says:

    I agree with most of what you said, however I think you have missed some disadvantages which immigrants bring, such as demanding housing, schooling and putting pressure on transport. What are your thoughts on these issues, and how they can be prevented?


    • I have little doubt there are short term costs of immigration but in the long term if young, healthy people come, work, contribute to GDP, pay tax etc then we can fund pensions and health care into the future. The short term costs can’t be ignored, but the long term benefits are huge


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