Immigration is a crucial component of the British national storyby Steve Bullock / June 27, 2018 / Leave a comment
“We are clear that as we leave the European Union, free movement of people will come to an end and we will control the number of people who come to live in our country.” Theresa May, Mansion House speech, 2018
“Freedom of movement will end when we leave the EU. Britain’s immigration system will change.” The Labour Party, 2017 manifesto
“You’d have been better to stay round our way
Thinking about things but not actually doing the things”
The Arctic Monkeys, “Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But…” 2006
A short story. A young Estonian man visits a small town in north east England for work, falls in love with a young local woman, and decides to stay. Neither he nor she have much, but he finds work. They get married, and have two sons.
A modern story of a “citizen of nowhere,” right? Wrong. This is a story from over a century ago. The Estonian’s name was Kristian Alberg, and he was my great-grandfather. I estimate that no fewer than 15 people, including me, have existed as a result of his decision to stay in South Shields and marry. All of those were and are British citizens, and two of them, including my grandfather, fought for Britain in World War Two.
Despite our politicians and press framing it as such, Kristian’s story shows that immigration is not something that is done to the UK. It is not a problem to be solved, but a fundamental part of what it means to be British. Spend some time on a genealogy website and it becomes apparent very quickly that most British people have a similar story somewhere in their history. It makes us up as a people, and, in the case of many, many individuals, it is a direct cause of their existence.
Even on the 70th anniversary of the NHS though, an institution built by immigrants, our politicians and media continue to frame immigration solely as a problem to be solved. Even when all evidence points to the economic benefits for the country of immigration generally, and EU immigration in particular, the news is constantly negative.