1 November 2014
Quit the EU, see boom turn to bust, and fear of foreigners will fade away
Sir, David Goodhart (“How to close the door to accidental migration”, Comment, October 25) offers an apparently neat solution to workers coming to Britain from elsewhere in Europe, namely that they should wait two years before claiming access to benefits such as social housing.
Leaving to one side the question of Irish citizens who have different legal rights to live and work in the UK, it is unclear what counts as social benefits. Healthcare? Schools?
Housing seems obvious save that the state houses asylum seekers and economic immigrants from outside the EU on the basis that modern democracies do not like to see people living rough in parks or streets. Labour sold 495,000 council homes between 1997 and 2009 and built just 24 in Yorkshire so there is not much social housing for anyone any more.
Britain from the mid-1990s enjoyed the strongest growth of any EU economy. As in America, robust growth sucks in foreign workers. Mr Goodhart is wrong to say mass immigration is new. In the 1950s and 1960s there were mass migrations from Italy and Spain to northern Europe. In the 1980s the largest immigrant group in France was 750,000 Portuguese just as there are 1m Romanians in Italy today.
In my four decades of political life it has been the arrival of immigrants from non-European countries that have caused the most negative reaction, exploited – or, if you prefer, articulated – by politicians such as Enoch Powell, the BNP and now most recently Ukip.
The easiest way to cut immigration is to exit the EU and see a boom turn to bust. Both may be on offer soon and then all the fretting about foreigners being in Britain will fade away.
London SW1, UK