IMPACT Article of the Month
Those who claim that mass immigration is progressive and enlightened do not realise the origin of their own argument. If they did, they would soon realise their liberalism is a warped form of imperialism – usually a word that causes most liberals to run for their duck tape and scissors, and follow procedure to apply it with haste to the lips of any individual who dares utter the term without the word evil, abhorrent and immoral in the same breath.
However, that many proponents of mass immigration have never seriously considered their own position is symptomatic of the unthinking nature of modern political debate.
More often than not, justifications for immigration stress the economic necessity of such a policy for the recipient country. In 2013 Conservative MP Gavin Barwell wrote in the Telegraph that without immigrants ‘we would have to make further cuts to public services or pay higher taxes or both.’ Gosh!
In May last year, Tim Finch wrote for the Guardian that ‘our economy still requires such people [immigrants] in substantial numbers’. He went on to state ‘a liberal country such as this one, which wants to remain open to the world, will find it difficult to reduce migration substantially if, as we should all hope, the economy remains relatively strong.’
Further quotation is not required here. These extracts illustrate the typical language on the subject of immigration. The unending emphasis on its economic necessity is used as an argument that seems to trump all other considerations. And, there can be no clearer link between being ‘open to the world’ and also a ‘liberal country’ than in Finch’s piece. Not to mention the horrible prospect of a future where, without cheap migrant labour, we would be forced to pay more tax.
But what of the political sentiments behind these arguments? Should we really reduce potential immigrants to an economic unit, their utility dependent on whether than can improve some abstract figure that has emerged from some divinely ordained think-tank?
How arrogant it is that we should claim any right to the talents of other nations purely out of our own economic necessity. It is immoral. It is neo-imperial. Such arguments need to be challenged.
Moreover, what a paradox it is that the same people who would tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes approximately argue that only in Britain should people excel; that we have some right to prune another country of its talent and its most valuable resource: its people. It seems, if they could, they would extend the boundaries of Britain to all corners of the earth purely so other people could prosper for the greater good of the British economy. Such a notion is couched in benevolence and is exactly the underpinning of pro-immigration gargle.
If only they truly considered their own position they would realise that they perpetuate a discourse that claims we still have a right to the economic resources of another country because we require it and, as Finch seems to suggest, deserve it – our economy a symbol of universal greatness, a beacon in the dust clouds of world economies. If only.
I am sure the few words I have spared on this issue will trigger the immune system of orthodoxy to kick in. Perhaps some may argue that immigrants benefit their own country by sending money home. This does not, however, defeat the principle behind our arrogance. If anything, it reinforces it by suggesting that only western prosperity can better other parts of the world.
What about culture? Well that might also seem a ‘liberal’ justification for mass immigration. But it isn’t. The assumption that immigrants can ‘improve’ our culture in small ways is always talked about as some sort of by-product of their economic usefulness. It also suggests our culture is already better than theirs. Much like realising that the exchange student sat next to you – whose presence is a symbol of an institution’s need for more money – by chance makes England all the better.
We have no right to the talents of another nation. People may wish to settle in Britain in hope of a better life – why shouldn’t they? But it should not be assumed that they can only achieve a better life by moving from their country to Britain under the belief that Britain is inherently better. And our attitudes should not be predicated on the idea that we have any claim to them due to our own necessity.
The least we can do to challenge this idea is to call things by their real names. Pro-immigration discourse is alarmingly neo-imperial. Just because it is espoused by those who like to be called ‘liberal’ does not make it any less so.