British immigration

I shouldn’t watch Question Time anymore, it just annoys me – although perhaps I enjoy getting annoyed.

I get particularly frustrated about immigration discussions.

The instant it’s raised in the UK, particularly on Question Time, the discussion descends into accusations of racism if anyone raises the question of how the country will manage newcomers. There’s no discussion about the practical aspect of planning.

If you recently arrived from Bangladesh thanks to getting married to a British citizen and are living in, say, East London, the country’s immigration policy matters to you – what does it mean for where you are living, the schools your children will go to, the local services you will use? The same questions are important for a Polish plumber who decided to stay in, say Glasgow, for whatever reason. They apply equally to someone who can trace their family back to the Domesday book.

If 200,000 ‘British South Africans’ arrived in the UK during the space of a year – all speaking English, easily fitting in to the prevailing culture, there would be implications.

If 200,000 Bulgarians, or Somails or whoever arrive, there would be implications. You might love the idea, you might hate it, but the current rules allow certain things to happen, so what is our plan, based on some sensible estimates of what might happen?

Some people don’t want to see foreigners arrive. Some are ambivalent, some welcome it.

Regardless of what your stance is, you have to have a plan. If you don’t want people to arrive because you detest anyone who isn’t white and doesn’t already speak the Queen’s English, what is your plan for Brtitish businesses that lack the local talent they need to remain competitive? At the other end of the spectrum, if you’d love to see the current situation revolutionised by a flood of people from all over the world, to introduce wondrous diversity, what’s your plan for the impact on school, healthcare, housing and other aspects? Do you care about who is already here, regardless of where they are from? Even someone who arrived last year is affected.

If you are massively increasing the workforce of your business, you have to plan – what is the impact of new cultures, what is the impact of short term contracts vs long term contracts, permanent employees, office space, pension provision, etc, etc? You cannot double your workforce without some sort of planned approach to deal with things.

It’s ludicrous to condemn anyone who is asking what the plan is as racist. The resulting plan might be racist, but having a plan is not racist.

My personal instincts (and I freely admit I need more facts to turn my instincts into more concrete opinions, particularly when it comes to how long it takes to get citizenship, access to the welfare state, etc) is that as things have changed so much in recent years in terms of the numbers of new arrivals, we need to make some changes.

What about residence visas along the lines of the UAE’s approach for example? The UK has to have something in-between a door that is wide open and a door that is slammed shut. The key question is less around someone coming to the UK to do something useful, but around the implications of that person staying, who they bring with them, the children they bring into the world and so on.

There seems to be a peculiarly British embarrassment that so many people actually want to come to the UK. Goodness! How do we deal with all these people wanting to be here? We have to bite the bullet and do something. The current situation doesn’t seem to be making anyone happy.

The UAE is pretty practical about this stuff. There are probably some experiences here that we could learn from.

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