“The rising tide of UK anti-immigrant sentiment”

by Stephen Tall on November 18, 2014

aljazeeraThat’s the headline of a piece I was interviewed for, published by Al Jazeera today. Here’s what I had to say:

Few political issues have stirred the 21st century British state like immigration. As the country continues to wrestle with its place within the European Union, the influx of EU migrants to UK shores has become one of the most controversial – and thorny – topics of discussion in recent years. …

“I don’t think the debate is a healthy one at the moment,” Stephen Tall, editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, the leading independent website for British Liberal Democrat party supporters, told Al Jazeera.

“It’s good that there is a debate because there was a period of time when there was no grown-up discussion about immigration at all. There were people saying that we didn’t talk about immigration, and 10 years ago that was possibly true, but it’s not true anymore. But, in terms of whether that discussion today is braced by facts, then clearly it’s not.”

Tall said as large swathes of the British – especially English – electorate continue to show their discontent with all things European and immigration, the economic facts – one of which, according to a recent University College London study, stated European migrants contributed more than £20bn ($31.3bn) to UK public finances between 2001 and 2011 – appear “irrelevant to the debate”.

“Immigration has helped fuel economic growth in London and it’s probably [partially responsible] for the huge improvement in London schools over the last decade, making London one of the most successful educational capitals in the world – and that’s partly been driven by the ambition of the immigrants who’ve settled here,” said Tall.

“But, for a lot of people, London feels like another place – it feels raucous and busy and uncomfortable and not somewhere they’d like to live or not somewhere they’d like their towns or villages or cities to turn into.”

That last sentence is a point I briefly explored here, too: Does everyone want to live in London?

As for how I think pro-immigration liberals (surely a tautology?) need to make our case, you might like to read my recent article for ConservativeHome: My open borders immigration policy is, I admit, a fantasy. The pro-immigration case has to be rooted in reality.