21 April 2007

A Nation of Immigrants?

Just a couple of days since the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, admitted that large-scale immigration has damaged our poorest communities, has deeply unsettled the country, and has resulted in inequality and child poverty, a new Civitas report reveals that immigration into Britain is now running at a level that is without precedent in our history and which threatens our cohesion as a nation.

Maintaining that immigration had never previously risen above very low levels or had any serious demographic impact prior to the last part of the twentieth century, the report's author, David Conway, claims that Labour's policies since 1997 have amounted to a virtual abandonment of the control of our borders, with net foreign immigration now representing an increase in Britain's population of one per cent every two years. He suggests:

"The country may possibly have already reached a tipping point beyond which it can no longer be said to contain a single nation. Should that point have been reached, then ironically, in the course of Britain having become a nation of immigrants, it would have ceased to be a nation. Once such a point is reached, political disintegration may be predicted to be not long in following."
Speaking earlier this week, the Immigration Minister cited the case of a school in his constituency where non-English speakers have soared from 1-in-20 to 1-in-5 in just a year and admitted, "It is true that a small number of schools have struggled to cope, that some local authorities have reported problems of overcrowding in private housing and that there have been cost pressures on English language training."

The new Australia-style points-based system that he revealed, restricting immigration to skilled workers (a policy adopted from the Conservatives' 2005 election manifesto) and to be introduced next year, is long overdue. However, this will have no impact on illegal immigrants or people coming from the European Union. Moreover, the Government still does not accept the need for a cap on how many migrants it allows into the country, so there is no reason to suppose that the new system will make any noticeable difference to our present laissez-faire migration.

If Britain is to remain a stable, free, and tolerant country, we need to recognise the extent to which Tony Blair's leadership of this country has radically and irreversibly transformed the face of our communities. Further, if we are to hold society together, we need to realise that the dialogue of civilisations is not merely an exercise to be carried out between nations but is now a requirement within our nation. Lastly, if we are truly to get a grip on this issue, we also need to reclaim full control of our borders from Europe – something that Blair's commitment yesterday to finalise a "basic outline agreement for a treaty" at June's European summit will not facilitate.