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.