Sunday 12 September 2021

Turning back the dinghies


It is surprisingly difficult to get to the UK legally. Even a tourist visa requires you to fill in lots of forms and demonstrate that you have enough money to visit here without there being a risk of you staying. To obtain the right to live and work here and especially to obtain a British passport is harder still. You have to pass various tests, pay thousands of pounds and after many years you get your passport. The alternative to all of these legal methods is to get in a rubber dinghy sail here and walk up the beach.

Britain has a policy of making immigration difficult in order to limit it. The legal route for immigrants could hardly be stricter and more expensive if we tried. But it only limits those who wish to come here legally. It does nothing to stop those who don’t.

There is a legitimate debate about immigration. Some people believe we should allow anyone who wishes to come to Britain to do so. We are all human beings. Why should there be borders at all?

We could say that no one requires a visa to come to Britain and we could issue passports to anyone who arrives and says they want one. We could do more than this. We could actively search for people all around the world who wish to come here and send planes to bring them.

The other side of the debate argues that we should take no asylum seekers, do everything we can to stop those who try to arrive here illegally and send back everyone who breaks the rules.  

What would be the result of unlimited immigration? It would radically alter the demographics of Britain. For instance, after the Second World War Polish people migrated into territory where Germans had been living for many centuries. The Germans were forced to leave. Afterwards what had been Germany became Poland. It ceased to be a German speaking place and became Polish speaking. The German culture that had existed there for centuries came to an end. This is an example of unlimited immigration.

Changes in demographics can also happen over a longer period. The Celtic population of Britain that existed before the Romans was gradually replaced with an Anglo-Saxon population with the Celts pushed westwards. Celtic Britain ceased to exist. The Celtic language and culture became a minority.

Britain like most other countries has always had demographic change. The Celts after all were immigrants too and replaced those who made Stonehenge and Scara Brae. But that is not to say that the Celts ought to have rejoiced in being supplanted or delighted in becoming a minority.

Since 1945 we have been experiencing one of the greatest demographic changes in our history. While previous waves of migration were from across the North Sea, now people from all over the world have been coming here in large numbers. Many of these people have made great contributions to our society. They are our friends and neighbours and fellow countrymen. It is foolish to oppose all immigration, not least because each of us has an immigrant in our family tree.

But still we must recognise that Britain has moved from being a monocultural country where 99% of the population were from families who had been here for at least a thousand years to a multicultural country where in some cities the majority have parents born abroad. We must be honest about this and the direction in which we are heading, otherwise we cannot debate the issue at all.

One of the reasons for Britain being successful as a multicultural country is that we have been able to limit migration. This means that those who arrive here have the chance to integrate and mix with everyone else. This would be less likely to happen if migration were unlimited as this would enable linguistic communities to develop who felt no need to learn English rather as the Anglo-Saxons felt no need to learn Celtic. But even limited migration will gradually very radically alter the demographics of Britain.

From the perspective of those living in 1945 the year 2045 a mere hundred years later would present a vision of Britain that many would find shocking and indeed quite unbelievable. They would find it difficult to understand how a Britain that could prevent the Germans invading in 1940 could fail to prevent people arriving here illegally in rubber dinghies. They would walk certain streets and wonder if they were in Britain at all. They would ask if Britain had been invaded by a foreign power.

But is there a way to limit migration still further and is it something we ought to try to do?

Some countries in Europe have very little immigration. Japan, Korea and Taiwan likewise remain overwhelmingly the same as they were in 1945. Poland lost 17% of its population in World War Two, Belarus lost 25%. The United Kingdom by contrast lost 0.94%. But while neither Poland nor Belarus thought it necessary to replace these losses with people from abroad, Britain argued that we required mass immigration to replace our losses.

Football fans in Poland and Hungary rudely boo England players taking the knee and demonstrate racist antipathy to these players, but I think what they are really saying is that we don’t want our country to become like yours even if that means we win fewer football matches.

There are very few non-Poles in Poland and most of these are from neighbouring countries. Polish is a notoriously difficult language. If you move there, you won’t find documents translated into your language. You won’t get much in the way of benefits and anyway the Polish Government does its very best to prevent Poland’s demographics changing.

It would be far easier for those in dinghies coming to Britain to just get on a train to Warsaw, but they are not interested. Britain is attractive partly because we speak English, but perhaps more importantly because there are communities from all over the world waiting to welcome newcomers and help them to get started. We are far less racist than the average Pole and far more friendly to migrants. Much of what ordinary Poles say to each other about immigration would be socially unacceptable here.

It matters little if a few thousand people arrive in dinghies. It matters little if twenty or thirty thousand arrive from Afghanistan. There is a good case for helping them. There is a humanitarian case that can be made for each individual that comes here, simply because he is a human being.

But cumulatively each of these things that matter little matter a lot. For while places like Poland remain as they were we change beyond all recognition from what we were even a short time ago. Some people welcome this. Perhaps they are right to do so. It looks as if the whole of western Europe is going to become much more multicultural in the coming decades just like the United States.

There is a whole ideology dedicated to preventing us from even expressing concern about how Britain has changed and will change still further. It has become the unforgivable sin to object and so the change will continue and indeed accelerate. We can no more stop it than we can stop the dinghies.

To seriously stop or even much limit migration would require a mindset that exists in some countries but does not exist in ours. It would require us to no longer be reliant on workers from abroad but instead have a birth-rate like we did in 1945. Turning back the dinghies is like trying to turn back the tide.