By Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK
Daily Express, 17 July 2018
Another year goes by and another set of Office of National Statistics figures show that net migration to the UK continues at eye-watering levels, driving population growth of nearly 400,000 people each year. While the headline figure of 282,000 net migrants arriving in 2017 may be lower than peak levels of well over 300,000 in 2015, it is, nonetheless, higher overall than net migration in the year 2016.
Despite figures that many people in this country would have found disappointing (nearly two-thirds of the population would like to see a significant reduction in immigration levels), a BBC report on the ONS announcement was headlined, “Migration from EU to UK lowest for four years.” Sorry, did I miss something? Was EU net migration not over 100,000; more than double the overall net migration figure in 1997, when the numbers started to get out of control? Was non-EU net-migration in 2017 not at its highest level in any calendar year for 13 years? I hate to say it but much of the reporting in the wake of yesterday’s ONS release, led by the BBC, was little more than spin.
The key message from the ONS figures for me is twofold. Firstly, they show that immigration from outside the EU, and which the UK can control, continues apace and must not be downplayed. Non-EU migration is still where the bulk of reductions in net migration will be found. Secondly, EU migration remains significant, is still beyond control and recent trends could easily be reversed.
It is of paramount importance therefore that we do not now use immigration as a bargaining chip to negotiate away our ability to control, and then reduce, migration from the EU. We at Migration Watch UK have proposed a post-Brexit work permit system, based on one we already have for non-EU workers, that will allow us to bring in all the skills and talent that we need, while reducing EU immigration into lower-skilled jobs, which evidence suggests has driven down wages for some of those on the lowest pay, and which also places additional demand on housing, healthcare and transport infrastructure. This type of immigration also contributes little to the public finances.
Far from making progress in reducing immigration, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction. The message for the government from yesterday’s set of statistics must be: you have clearly failed on your manifesto commitments made in 2010, 2015 and in 2017 to bring down net migration. It is time to keep the promise you made to the British people and get serious about reducing net migration instead of caving into every demand of the immigration lobby.