James O'Brien is Leading Britain's Conversation.
1 December 2016, 13:40
David Mellor: The horrendous record immigration figures just published of 650,000 in the last 12 months suggests that not only is immigration out of control, but also that exiting the European Union won’t necessarily stop it.
Or at least, not, in the immortal words of Tommy Cooper “Just like that!”
There’s a serious prospect that Brexit will happen, and we will leave the EU, and immigration won’t fall.
How can that be? Well, just like this.
Immigration from the EU won’t necessarily stop, because the terms of the Brexit deal will almost certainly force us to retain some free movement.
Already Big Mouth Boris seems to be letting that cat out of the bag, with some loose talk along those lines, to no less than four EU Ambassadors. He denies it – well he would, wouldn’t he – but he’s probably only mouthing the truth that dare not speak its name - yet.
For many people, a failure to cut mass migration after Brexit will be the biggest political betrayal in decades. And one that will have a profound impact on public confidence in politics and politicians.
Already, in my mind’s eye, I see a British Donald Trump, pawing the ground and working on the populist rhetoric that might finally destroy the status quo of British politics.
The really staggering figure, that gives us no grounds for confidence at all that mass migration will end with Brexit, is the one that shows migration from outside the EU, that theoretically we are able to control. It was 289,000 last year, more than EU migration, which we can’t control, which was 285,000.
This 289,000 is immigration we could stop, but choose not to.
And of course, a lot of this in-flow is of largely unskilled people from Africa and the Indian sub-continent.
Which is, uncomfortable truths to tell, the migration most resented by the majority of people who are concerned about immigration, as opposed to those nice Polish barmaids, waitresses and building workers.
If the British government can’t (or won’t) stop non-EU migration now, why are we naïve enough to imagine they will do so after Brexit? And the present uncontrollable flow from this source is equivalent to the population of Nottingham, each and every year.
Various commitments down the years have been given to long term migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, allowing them to bring in family members, other dependants, and, of course spouses.
Unless a future government is prepared to abolish these longstanding arrangements, migration will remain, in the eyes of many voters, unacceptably high, Brexit or no Brexit.
This is the prospect that stares us in the face; we will leave the EU, and mass migration will continue. What a thought. But it’s probably the truth.