By Philip Benton
The local and European elections seem to have revolved around one key issue. The Daily Mail reading British public have had enough of failed promises from the Government to keep net immigration under control and have made their views known by voting for anti-EU parties like UKIP.
A key policy for all the main parties fighting for power is to potentially revise Britain’s relationship with Europe. There have been calls for a renegotiation of the EU powers over this island and even to leave the European Union altogether.
The local and European elections revealed that the support for UKIP came predominantly from areas which have low levels of immigration prompting a ‘fear’ that immigrants are going to steal British jobs from British people. The county of my birth (Essex) has been an unexpected success story for UKIP whereas my adopted home of London showed little notice of Farage and the ‘UKIP fox in the Westminster henhouse’.
The reason for this is London, as a metropolitan city, has prospered incredibly well due to the influx of extremely well qualified, educated immigrants deciding to call London their home. The world is an incredibly competitive place and a city like London relies on a pool of multinational talent to ensure its continued rise of economic growth. Maintaining its links with Europe is essential to continue to attract the best labour that Europe has to offer along with easy access to trade in key markets.
The key question to ask is why do Europeans want to leave their home countries and start a new life in Britain? I believe it’s because fundamentally there is a need for them to come here. Would the NHS be able to cope without the thousands of non-British born staff? Would there be such a diverse range of international cuisines available without the influence of immigrants? Would the English Premier League still be the best football league in the world without the raft of multinational players at its disposal?
The answer to all these questions is almost certainly no. However, the increase of immigration does raise the issue of whether the British education system is serving its purpose? Let’s take the leisure and hospitality industry as an example. Across many European countries it’s seen as a reputable career offering an ample amount of opportunities which require a vocational qualification. Whereas in the UK, the image is of something that British couples do when they retire by perhaps setting up a B&B. Visit any Marriot hotel, Premier Inn or Travelodge in the country and you’ll almost certainly find a host of capable Eastern Europeans cleaning your bedroom, serving your meal or filling up your glass. These hotels probably wouldn’t be able to operate without immigrants. This is worrying for a country that wants to be ‘independent’ and ‘self-sufficient’.
Hotel chains such as Malmaison have complained in the past about a lack of suitable UK applicants because they lack the basic skills required or are simply not interested in the role. The UK still has over two million people unemployed but some of those unemployed don’t seem to want to put the hard labour in or work unsociable hours to provide a better future for themselves. It’s not just the hotel industry which has complained about the lack of UK applicants. Domino’s Pizza have said that they have struggled to hire staff since the immigration laws were tightened in 2010/11 – suggesting they could fill 1,000 jobs tomorrow if they could get UK candidates to apply for them.
Part of the problem, in my view, is the university set-up. I don’t doubt we have some of the best institutions in the world and everybody should be given the opportunity to further their education should they so wish. However, the government is pushing too many youngsters to go to university who don’t necessarily need to be there. With tuition fees of almost £30,000, you can’t blame the graduates for aiming for a Deloitte and not wanting to settle for a Domino’s.
An influx of excess immigration isn’t without its problems, putting pressure on an already fragile infrastructure, oversubscribed health service and a further strain on a housing market verging on collapse. But until the UK finds a solution to maintaining its economic growth without foreign migrants filling the essential jobs, then leaving the European Union is not an option.
Immigration is a consequence, not the problem.