Net migration is falling. Be careful what you wish for

UKIP is wrong - without foreigners, the UK's economy risks falling into the same sickly state as Japan's.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 25 May 2017

One of the few positive results of events during the last year is that we are going to hear less from Paul Nuttall, in or out of his tweeds and deerstalker. (Anyone else notice how Nuttall appears to take his dress code from pugilist of repute Chris Eubank?)

Today at their manifesto launch UKIP, in their normal twisted fashion, have declared that new migrants to the UK would be given a test to check they had British values and attitudes towards women and LGBT people. If they applied this test to their own members the party would be down to seven angry, purple stalwarts before the year was out. Wasn’t it one of their own councillors, David Silvester, who blamed the storms and floods of 2014 on the government’s gay marriage policy? Whether that made him a fruitcake, loony or closet racist is not for us to speculate.

Most of those who voted UKIP believe the organisation has done its job and should now atrophy. Today’s large drop in net migration figures from the ONS will please Theresa May and intensely annoy UKIP. The net migration figure for 2016 was estimated at 248,000, down by 84,000 from 2015.

Both sides on the immigration debate will feel vindicated. Those who worry that large numbers of migrants leaving will be bad for our economy will say that if you follow this trend to a logical conclusion i.e net immigration falling to that magic ‘tens of thousands’ figure, then you are likely to shrink growth but also the size of our economy. Those who want foreigners out will rejoice at more available hospital beds even if there are also insufficient numbers of foreign-born nurses to care for patients. We’d do well to remember that migrants choose us, as well.

They hate immigration in Japan which, when it comes to foreigners, is UKIP writ big, just slightly more polite and unspoken. The Japanese population is shrinking. A new points-based system to encourage foreign workers introduced in 2012 attracted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months due to overly strict criteria, particularly regarding income. And just look at their economy - the result of fewer taxpayers of working age - which simply cannot find steady growth whichever fiscal levers are pulled. 

Over at Nomura they have helpfully pointed out that while it’s true we have enjoyed the same GDP growth as Germany since 2008 the UK’s population has grown by 6% since then while Germany’s has remained the same. Despite all those refugees. So, we’re back to the low productivity disease, the remedy for which involves greater investment in both technology and skills.

It will take some time to do anything about this and, in the meantime, all those Poles and Romanians not willing to wait on the uncertain outcome about their futures here will not be paying their income tax and national insurance. European immigrants in the UK pay £2.5 billion more annually to HMRC than they receive in benefits.

What is clear is that the loss of steam in the British economy following the fall in the value of the pound has truly begun. The Brexiteers are getting their way and our economy is already growing less strongly than before. The GDP figures were today revised down to 0.2% for the first quarter. These people ultimately will reduce immigration by making Britain a less tolerant, less prosperous, less successful place to live. But at least it will be populated only by people like them.

In the 1796 edition of Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, "He cut off his nose to be revenged of his face" is defined as "one who, to be revenged on his neighbor, has materially injured himself." The word ‘face’ is used here in the sense of ‘honour.’ I’m sure Paul Nuttall regards himself as an entirely honorable man. People who dress so well usually do.

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