Let Them Come: We Have Nothing to Fear From High Levels of Immigration

Thursday 10 October 2013, 7.21pm | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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When the EU’s transitional immigration rules expire on 1st January 2014, numerous Bulgarians and Romanians will be heading for Britain. And we should put out the welcome mat. Yes, it’s true that there has been a huge fuss about this in the press, but then xenophobia sells newspapers. The truth is that like the other waves of immigrants to Britain, those coming here will overwhelmingly be people with initiative, people who want to better their prospects. And our economy needs them. Immigrants don’t steal jobs from the existing British workforce: all the evidence suggests they make possible the creation of new jobs. Mass immigration has always enriched economies and cultures and never more so than in the present globalised world. Yes, it’s easy to stoke the fires of xenophobia and get the British public all ugly on the issue, but it’s wrong: the pundits and the politicians should be allaying public fears of immigration not pandering to them.

That’s the liberal “metropolitan” line, but as its critics see it, it overlooks a crucial aspect of the human personality: we are not a random jumble of individuals who just happen to inhabit the same small island. We are a nation, they say: and our sense of identity with nation is, or should be, central to who we are.  And while no civilised nation, least of all Britain, should be opposed to immigration, we should be opposed to the unprecedented scale on which it has been occurring. It’s the numbers, stupid. Immigrants have undoubtedly enriched our culture, but for there to be such a thing as British culture, for there to be a sense of nationhood and national pride, it is essential that the newcomers be absorbed into British life rather than form distinct cultural colonies. There’s nothing racist about this. Nothing racist in feeling apprehensive about the next influx from Eastern Europe, for example. It’s not just a matter of what that might mean for our overstrained services and for British citizens competing for low-paid jobs: it’s the damage done to our sense of belonging to the same community (credit kagura). This isn’t some kind of extremist position: as polls have shown, seven out of ten Britons think there are too many foreigners in the country.

So does mass immigration boost our economy and cultural richness or does it undermine them? Come to our major debate on 10th October and let us hear your view.

Speakers for the motion

David AaronovitchDavid Aaronovitch

Times columnist and author

 

Ken LivingstoneKen Livingstone

Former Mayor of London (2000 – 2008) who promoted London as an international, multicultural city

 

David AaronovitchSusie Symes

Economist, formerly at the Treasury and the European Commission, and chair of 19 Princelet Street, Europe’s first museum of immigration

 

Speakers against the motion

Nigel FarageNigel Farage

Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which calls for an end to mass, uncontrolled immigration

 

David GoodhartDavid Goodhart

Director of the think tank Demos, former editor of Prospect Magazine and author of The British Dream, a controversial book about immigration

 

Harriet SergeantHarriet Sergeant

Journalist, author, research fellow of the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, and author of Among the Hoods: My Years with a Teenage Gang

 

 

Chair

Jonathan FreedlandJonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, author and broadcaster

 

 

All speakers are subject to change.