Thanks to UKIP’s continuing strong showings in local by-elections following the excellent results in the May local elections, issues which were once considered taboo in political discussion are gaining considerable traction in the wider political narrative.
One such issue is immigration, a topic which was seemingly permanently tainted by the outcry raised after Enoch Powell made his “Rivers of Blood” speech. Discussions about what he meant and what context his comments reflected possibly need to be had, since this one occasion has blighted the legacy of an incredibly intelligent and remarkably liberal and forward-thinking politician, who was decades ahead of his time on a variety of social and economic issues.
But that is not what this article is about – I want to talk about immigration, UKIP and the other parties’ immigration positions. After all, it did not take long for the media/left-wing chatteratti/sneering Conservatives to switch their UKIP-directed pejoratives from “just about Europe” to “just about Europe and Immigration”. Immigration is a defining part of UKIP’s appeal, and will form a key part of the next General Election campaign.
Firstly, let us deal with an incontrovertible truth – you cannot look at the immigration issue without also looking at the UK’s membership of the European Union. The mass migration of EU nationals to the UK over the last decade has occurred in numbers unprecedented in the history of these islands. While other peoples continue to enter this country from the rest of the world, overwhelmingly the EU member states represent the primary source of people coming into this country. Clamping down on the numbers of non-EU immigrants is a “sticking-plaster” solution, something for the beleaguered Tory front-bench to claim as a success while they remain collectively in denial about the true source of the “problem”. While we are members of the EU, we have no way to regain control of our borders and the numbers of incoming migrants, something which will become very plain when the restrictions on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania are lifted at the end of this year.
UKIP favours a points-based system of controlled immigration, similar to that used by Australia and Canada. People who possess skills that can add to our economic and social prosperity can apply for a work/residence visa, followed by the normal mechanisms for permanent and full naturalisation after a period of time. The value and desirability of any given skill set will be determined through objective evaluation of the needs of our economy and institutions, and periodically re-evaluated to adjust to changing circumstances. Current non-British residents would not be ‘shipped home’, but would instead receive temporary visas which may or may not become permanent depending on their economic contributions. There would be provision made for sustainable numbers of genuine refugees and asylum seekers, although passing through other safe countries to reach our shores would be discouraged.
This system would be totally non-discriminatory when it comes to country of origin, ethnicity or religion. It would not favour a group because they happen to be European. It would not result in ‘fewer non-white faces’ on our streets, it would mean that anyone who does come to our country is able and willing to support themselves, add to the economy, and assimilate/integrate into the fabric of our society – ethnicity is entirely irrelevant. We would not see fewer nurses and doctors from the Commonwealth (or Europe for that matter) working in our NHS, but we would see fewer unskilled labourers, and those who make the journey to the UK to partake of our benefits largesse (more than 600,000 from the EU alone according to the EU’s own figures, as reported on UKIP Daily last week).
This is a pragmatic, common-sense approach. It allows the control of incoming numbers to maintain sustainable levels, it acknowledges the economic benefits of skilled immigration, it is not based on any discriminatory criteria other than the potential immigrant being able to add to this country in a meaningful and positive way. What’s not to like?
The Conservatives, knowing that they cannot enact any meaningful reductions in immigration numbers whilst remaining in the EU, have chosen to turn nasty. They have targeted legitimate foreign students alongside the fallacious ‘ESL’ illegal immigrant inroads. They have made it harder for British nationals to attain residency for their spouses if said spouse happens to not be European. They have sponsored rather disturbing “Immigrants Go Home” vans. In desperately seeking to appear tough, they have disproportionately cracked down upon immigration from Commonwealth countries, places which have ties of history, law, culture and societal values with our own.
Labour remains in denial about the cynical way that they encouraged mass immigration to change voting demographics and create an immigrant client-base that would, by default, vote for them (as confirmed by former Labour adviser Andrew Neather). They reluctantly admit that they “made mistakes”, but have stopped short of a proper apology for executing mass societal change without regard to the wishes of that society. They offer no solutions to the problem, and indeed with their pro-EU inclinations are as unlikely as the Conservatives to ever address the real core issue, which is that we cannot control immigrant numbers while we have surrendered powers over our own borders to Brussels.
The Liberal Democrats have come up with ideas that make the “Immigrants Go Home” vans look comparatively non-threatening. Nick Clegg wants everyone from a country which represents a “high-risk” of overstaying an entry visa (thereby becoming an illegal immigrant) to pay a monetary surety that they will leave when they are supposed to – a bond if you will. Of course, the “high-risk” countries are almost all in Asia, Africa or the Caribbean, so this policy is blatantly discriminatory – as far as Nick Clegg is concerned, if you are black or brown you are automatically a potential illegal immigrant and must pay a deposit, or you’re eventually ‘going home’. Once again, there is no chance that the LibDems would address the EU migration question – if they had their way we would be signatories to Schengen and have no controls or inhibitions of any sort when it comes to their masters in Brussels.
The Greens? Well, to grant them the dignity of parity with real political parties, they have an immigration policy too. It boils down to “let everyone from everywhere who wants to come here do so”, which is an amazing position for a group whose dogma is based on the idea of sustainability. What is sustainable in a societal or environmental sense about mass immigration? Absolutely nothing. Not that one expects much when it comes to logic (or even reality) when speaking about the Greens.
When looking at the relative policy positions, taking into account the other parties’ feverish avoidance of the fact that EU membership means that controlling immigration numbers in any meaningful sense is completely out of our control, and indeed at the measures suggested by the Conservatives and LibDems, the least non-discriminatory and most sustainable alternative is that offered by UKIP.
But whey should immigration numbers be controlled at all? As a free-trade, libertarian party, should UKIP not be embracing the free movement of labour? The answer is again rooted in the common-sense pragmatism that defines UKIP. While there is undeniable economic benefits to skilled immigration, and arguably significant benefits from low-skilled and un-skilled immigration to certain agricultural/service/industrial sectors (at least to the employers), the wider impact of immigration on the scale that we have seen has some extremely negative impacts.
Wages for semi-skilled (and some skilled) work have been deflated. The lack of available unskilled entry-level jobs has contributed to more than a million young people being unemployed in this country. Communities have been torn apart through rapid change, with de-facto ‘apartheid’ manifesting in towns and cities across the country as immigrant communities establish themselves in numbers which allow many to exist without ever interacting with, or integrating into, wider British society. The mass growth in population has put pressure on essential services, housing, the NHS, and schools, not only due to the enormous numbers involved, but due to the increased costs of logistically catering for the vast number of languages spoken by the migrants.
Some control needs to be re-established, and UKIP seems to be the only party which wants to implement the two basic measures to make sure that we can do that – leaving the EU to regain sovereignty over our own borders, and putting in place immigration mechanisms to make sure that we only get the best and brightest people (in sustainable numbers) from around the world to come to our country and add to its prosperity. When it comes to immigration, the choice is clear – UKIP is head and shoulders above the rest.
Barry Cooper is an MEP Candidate for the South East. He Tweets at @waddesdonbaz