The most common lie propagated by right-wing politicians is that immigration harms society. Apparently immigrants, mostly illegal, take our jobs, fail to integrate and create ghettos where violence reigns. David Cameron’s position is not unique - he is following in the footsteps of a long line of European leaders who toy with the same kind of rhetoric. His government hastily pushed through laws that will stop unemployed immigrants from receiving benefits if they have lived in the UK for less than three months.
The new annual report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research predicts that by 2030 the British economy will have outstripped Germany. The report tells us: ‘Positive demographics with continuing immigration [and] rather less exposure to the problems of the eurozone than other European economies combine with relatively low taxes by European standards to encourage faster growth than in most western economies.’ It must come as a bittersweet surprise for David Cameron and other populists that immigration is actually helping to build a stronger economy instead of undermining it as they would lead us to believe
"ALL I WANNA DO IS TAKE YOUR MONEY!"
The British Prime Minister recently admitted that failure to apply transitional movement controls to new EU members such as Poland in 2004 had been a ‘huge mistake’ for the UK. On 1 January, the whole EU labour market will be opened to Bulgarians and Romanians. Cameron fears a repeat of 2004 when, instead of the estimated 13,000 Poles, a quarter of a million came one year. The difference is that in 2004, Britain was the only EU country which opened its borders, whereas the new wave of migrants have the whole EU to choose from.
What British conservatives do not want to understand (or rather cynically lie about) is that immigrants are now essential to the rejuvenation of society. In other words, immigration drives the economy. Polish women are more likely to give birth to children in the UK than in Poland. This migration is actually more of a problem for Poland than Britain since Poland thus loses future generations of productive citizens. In contrast to government rhetoric, very few Poles live on benefits because the vast majority have a job - only 20,000 Poles were unemployed in 2011. Between 2001 and 2011, immigrants were 45% less likely to claim benefits than ‘native’ British-born citizens.
Not for the first time in history, social and economic crises are fomenting xenophobia. UK governments historically tend to sense the growth of nationalism and create an enemy accordingly. This time the hammer has fallen on Bulgarians and Romanians. They are depicted as a rabid mass hungrily eyeing British benefits. With one eye on the 2015 elections, David Cameron has sensed the fear of the nation and given that fear an object. Brandishing populist slogans he has cast himself as the only politician capable of defending Britain against the insidious wave of immigrants. This marvellously Machiavellian streak is worthy of a politician but not a true statesman. Cameron fears the UK Independence Party - the eurosceptic group that, paradoxically, has a strong chance in the European Parliament elections in May. Enemies help build a sense of identity when there is none. Immigrants are perfect for the job. But the duty of a leader is to mitigate social unrest, not exaggerate it.
The English Prime Minister is following in the footsteps of former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. In an attempt to snatch votes from the National Front, he decided to ‘get tough’ on the Roma, seeking to stoke fear and resentment of this marginalised community with very public expulsions. Let his fate be a warning for Cameron.
We need to think about what the European Union has become. It is beginning to represent all the values that the founding fathers opposed - xenophobia, mistrust and the ‘every man for himself’ philosophy. Mr. Cameron is the face of this new EU.