But making the case for immigration is about to become even more difficultby Mark Hilton / May 26, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Iain Duncan Smith’s free movement fig-leaf
Today’s immigration figures have been seized upon by Brexiteers as further evidence we should leave the EU. The figures are the second-highest on record and show that 333,000 migrants arrived here last year. That’s more than three times the “tens of thousands” the government said it wanted, and Boris Johnson has today argued that the government was “cynical” to make that promise while Britain remains a part of the EU (its membership means that it must allow the free movement of people from the EU).
For those of us who think that immigration is a good thing, the heated rhetoric poses a problem. Whatever the result of the referendum on our EU membership on 23rd June, making the case for immigration is about to become a lot more difficult. If we leave, the pressure will be to sever free movement across Europe. And if we stay, backbench pressure for tighter immigration controls against non-EU immigrants will be higher than ever.
Neither of these outcomes would be interests of the country. But it won’t stop the rhetoric becoming ever-more heated. Theresa May, who would cross several fields for the chance to speak out against immigration, has performed strongly throughout the referendum campaign and has undoubtedly strengthened her status within her party. She is likely to be even more influential after the vote next month—a headache for those who believe immigration is vital for the health of our economy.
Yes, there are challenges that come from immigration—not least ensuring that trains, schools and hospitals can meet demand. But despite hysteria about us running out of space, it’s worth noting that even London is not a very dense city when compared with other international cities. London has 5,100 people per square km, while Shanghai has 13,400 and Mumbai has 29,650.
The solution to the housing shortage in the capital has far less to do with reducing immigration, and far more to do with stopping nimbyism choking up supply. If we returned to the post-war house-building levels, we’d have no problem—an approach that seems distinctly on the cards under our new Mayor Sadiq Khan. And with new railway services…