« Recessions and beliefs | Main | Noise traders & noise voters »

September 09, 2009


Luis Enrique

If there is an increase in home-grown population, arising say from an increased birth rate, would workers complain about having to compete for jobs with this influx of new workers? How does that differ from having to compete with an influx of immigrants?

I have posted this link elsewhere, and Chris you may have already seen it, but there is an excellent free book, by heavyweight economist Lant Pritchett, on migration available here:


Matthew Sinclair

"There are, of course, rebuttals of these analogies. But how many of them are left if you believe there should be equality between Britons and foreigners? "

The idea that there should be legal equality between Britons and foreigners is deeply radical. We don't let the entire world vote in British elections, claim benefits, etc. etc. Your argument seems to rest on the idea that citizenship is meaningless.


I recently discovered a somewhat embittered manifesto I drafted about 10 years ago, which included a proposition to introduce immigration restrictions into London. But the idea was specifically targeted towards people from Surrey. Perhaps I should have just recommended some sort of Maginot line aimed in their general direction instead.


@ Matthew - I'm not arguing for full legal equality. There's a big difference between giving people a right of residency and rights to vote or get welfare beneifts.


I spent over 20 years as a migrant worker; I migrated from Leicester to London to find work.

Classic line. And presumably found time to watch some cricket too?


"There's a big difference between giving people a right of residency and rights to vote or get welfare beneifts."

Well that's a difference between intra-national (across the M25) and international migration, isn't it? If someone comes from Leicester but thinks don't work out they're less likely to end up destitute. There seems to be a common assumption that very large numbers of people won't come, and that if they do they will just go home again if things don't work out. Neither are necessarily true, and the consequences should have some bearing on your views on the subject.


The argument about immigration is about numbers, that's all. The consequences of five million immigrants settling in the UK are very different from that of just five.

If you want to make a great case for immigration, how about this. Take a developed country with very high immigration (e.g. the UK) & contrast it with Japan, which has a very restrictive immigration policy. Explain to us all how Japan's near-zero immigration policy is reducing prosperity and cohesion, while the UK's high immigration policy is helping both.


"I'm not arguing for full legal equality. There's a big difference between giving people a right of residency and rights to vote or get welfare beneifts."

Is there? What is behind the assertion that 'citizenship' can legitimately be used to distinguish between those who may and may not vote, but not between those who may and may not reside and work in a country?

R.e. eugenics, "Should we prevent the underclass from having children?" No, with citizenship comes the right to vote (even if they vote for the wrong parties) and the right to have children. But that tells us nothing about whether non-citizens should have the right to reside and work in the country.

R.e. externalities, it's not usual for advocates of free migration to claim that there are only very limited externalities. Usually the claim is quite the opposite and focuses on the supposed positive externalities of cultural diversity (my recollection of Legrain's book is that he takes this approach). I suspect you would be hard pressed to convince those living in areas that have experienced high immigration, whether they are pro or anti, that the externalities are very limited.


As an ex-pat Australian living in Germany - and after all almost all Australians are the descendents of relatively recent migrants, I should heartily agree with you.

But strangely I don't. See I think your analogy is wrong. Think traffic jams. It is not the principle that is the problem, it is rate of flow.


@ Reason - your traffic jam analogy actually supports my argument. It suggests there's a stronger case for restricting migration into London than into the UK, as London suffers from congestion whilst much of Britain (such as Leicestershire) doesn't.
@ chrisg - you're just countering assertion with assertion here (nowt wrong with that, given time and space limits). Why should citizenship bring with it a right to have children? Having children, surely, is a huge other-regarding act. I would have thought that the argument for having a right to children is vastly weaker than the rights (say) to take heroin, enter full gay marriages, or visit prostitutes?


So Chris, you want to abolish the UK border but create much more heavily policed borders between local regions of the UK? And is the idea that immigrants are only to be allowed into the low-density areas? Allow them in Keswick but deport them if they show up in London?

Wouldn't you rather try to correct regional imbalances by government policy (eg relocating the political capital to somewhere further north)?

Matthew Sinclair


But, if we're willing to discriminate between citizens and foreigners on other legal rights, why not residency as well?

I don't doubt that voting and residency are, and should be, different but your basic point relied upon the idea we treat Britons and foreigners equally, you acknowledged that in the sentence I quoted. We don't.

A question might be, what do people think about exile as a punishment? That gets at attitudes towards citizenship and residency in quite an interesting way, I think. Sorry to get off-topic.

Andrew Campbell

@Georges: low-density areas? Keswick?? Have you been there on a summer weekend? Perhaps the immigrants could be sent somewhere else during holiday periods with good weather!

But seriously, the question of different regional approaches to immigration is already with us, as the Scottish government/executive has already looked at taking a different line to the UK, given Scotland's different demographic profile.

More generally, strict immigration controls raise the barrier for those wanting to get here, but equally make it much less likely that having got here such immigrants will leave. The Poles who came here to make a bit of money when the economy was booming would not be going back to Poland, or heading elsewhere, so readily if they couldn't return here easily in the future.


"I spent over 20 years as a migrant worker; I migrated from Leicester to London to find work."

But did you pass the cricket test? Was it Middlesex/Surrey or was it Leicestershire?



In saying that citizenship brought with it a right to have children, I was making an observation of fact rather than a normative statement.

I think the part of your argument I'm focussing on is
1. what people should and shouldn't be permitted to do should be determined by the extent of the negative externalities of the actions in question
2. 'the underclass' having children imposes greater negative externalities than unconstrained immigration
3. if we are prepared to tolerate the externalities from allowing the underclass to have children, we should also tolerate the more limited externalities from unconstrained immigration.

We can debate, ideally based on evidence, whether 2 is in fact true (it's far from obvious to me that it is). But even if it is, as Matthew says, we seem to agree there should be a distinction between citizens and non-citizens and that it is legitimate at least in principle for the two groups to enjoy different rights.

Then the question becomes how to determine the respective rights of citizens and non-citizens. And in suggesting that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote while - I'm assuming you mean this - even underclass citizens should be able to vote, you seem to be applying a criterion different from (and with differing results from) the negative externalities criterion you invoke to explain why we should enforce eugenics on citizens before we limit non-citizens' right to reside and work.

So what is this unspecified criterion? And might it not also be used to restrict non-citizens' right to reside and work?


Hmm, I have heard it suggested that London should become an independent city-state in the mould of Singapore. Not exactly renowned for its open borders, is it?

Iain Gill

The British People have genuine concerns which the current political correctness prevents them discussing

Labour sound bite “it will be much harder for British firms to employ non European workers” which is just spin and no substance, after Gordon's famous "British jobs for British workers"

We have a problem with floods of 3rd world workers in this country. the problem is the inter company transfer visas! The leading Indian outsourcers Cognizant, Satyam, Tech Mahindra, Tata etc etc have tens and tens of thousands of staff here on these Visas. The staff are not in much of a real sense working for the company which brought them in, rather they are immediately subcontracted (for less than a European could possibly afford to work for) into our public sector and large companies. India is sucking up some of our key skills, and forcing our own workforce out of work. I should add that such folk after a few years here are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain and there we have it totally uncontrolled immigration. Also worth noting that they can bring their family in, partners and children who are also entitled from day one of entry access to the NHS and our education system. WHEN I WORK ABROAD I PAY FOR MY HEALTHCARE AND KIDS EDUCATION! Some very seriously ill people coming into the country via this route and draining our health resources. To say nothing of those bring a few kids in and taking places at schools that just could never have planned for such unplanned extra heads to educate. There maybe enough school places on average in the country but there sure is not in the hotspot areas. Many have already got indefinite leave to remain (due to time in the country, or having kids here), when they get this they are finally able to leave the company which brought them in, get a job anywhere in the UK, and help force down even more wages for Europeans (as they had been doing already when subcontracted via their Indian outsourcer). Up until that point they are treated very badly like modern days slaves, indentured servitude. Now the outsourcing and offshoring business has already moved countless tens of thousands of our most highly skilled jobs to India, and similar countries. we have compounded this by allowing totally unrestricted inward movement of Indian nationals on inter company transfer visas. This cannot continue. The country cannot sustain this. Normal market forces are totally broken, and the UK really needs to think long and hard about how it is going to compete with countries which disregard health and safety and the norms of good employment practise. We should be educating and training our own people, and market forces without this influx would have forced employers to spend more on training our own workforce. Sadly I expect real serious problems for us ahead if we allow this to continue. If we are going to continue to allow this we may as well allow all Indian nationals free work visas, why should we allow the Cognizants to make money simply by providing a mechanism for these folk to get Visas? We need proper managed migration a situation where so many of our own highly qualified folk are unemployed in the recession and we are still allowing tens of thousands of Indian nationals into the country to work cannot be sensible. The government on this as many other issues has lost the plot, victim of lobbying from the big industrialists who like having over supply of workers forcing wages down. We should not be supporting this for the reasons of poor employment practises suffered by the Indians brought in as much as anything, we wouldn't support the slave trade, and this is often little different.

BT has stopped hiring grads, they hire them in India through their subsidiary Tech Mahindra and bring them in using inter company transfer visas in their tens of thousands. Go look at many of our biggest companies and public sector bodies.

Work visas are not the main issues, inter company transfer visas very much are.

I quote the Migration Advisory Committee ” A separate scheme is created for graduates only which would require 3 months prior experience with the company” since most of the folk being brought in by the big Indian outsourcers are grads (don't ask about the quality of their Indian colleges though) this has made it easier not harder to keep the massive flow of these folk into the country

Now the IT and Telco businesses have more than enough Europeans qualified to do the work, many tens of thousands recently thrown out of work

Why are the big Indian outsourcing companies allowed to flout employment law, flout immigration laws, flood the country with cheap labour?

And why pretend any government action is sorting this out. The big Indian outsourcers have taken at least half a million jobs away from European workers in this country in the last few years, partly by moving work to Indian, and partly with staff here on inter company transfers. The UK workers playing fair are being shafted big time.

European workers cannot compete with 3rd world nationals imported here on inter company transfer Visas.

Of course the BNP will continue to make ground, if the main parties allow this and other situations to continue!!!
You can come over on the Dover Ferry without even showing your passport
I am increasingly concerned about how we compete with nations that ignore pollution controls, ignore decent employment practice, ignore health and safety, how can the UK bear the extra cost of these things and the massive cost of our public sector and compete with 3rd world and emerging nations? Especially when we are allowing floods of staff in from these areas and effectively training them up in the very skills that we should be leading the world in, and throwing away our competitive position, and at the same time as throwing our own people on the scrap heap using our own tax spend to send “aid” to the very same countries that are taking the bread from our tables, we really need to rethink our position in the world
Once you give birth in the UK you are NEVER sent home, thousands of people get into the country on a million and one false pretences and have a kid as soon as they can, and bingo life of riley in the UK is guaranteed
The London hospitals (especially) are overflowing with foreign nationals who have not paid into the system, compare and contrast with how much Brits get charged when taken ill abroad
You displace a few thousand of the role models in the community, often the most educated Brits in a family, by allowing Wipro, Cognizant et al to flood the country with 3rd world nationals and this ripples down so that the folk at the bottom of British society really are suffering
I can walk you round many a university community and show you people who really shouldn’t be in the country, and these are genuine places of learning, do the same at some of the dodgy colleges specialising in getting foreign nationals Visas under false pretences and its even worse
Many of the people suffering the most cannot put their arguments very eloquently, and they sure don’t have many politicians listening to them at the moment, they are probably not using the most politically correct language, the country is sleepwalking into a position where the BNP or similar are the only choice in some areas
It is not racist to want sensible debate on these issues, the logical conclusion that we allow ever more thousands of workers from India and similar nations into this country is clearly not going to work, do the maths? We are only a small nation
There are reasons the BNP are gaining ground, and unless the main parties start listening and acting sensibly we are in big trouble
It is not racist to question why we are handing out inter company transfer visas to 3rd world nationals to swamp our workforce
Show me any mainstream party prepared to discuss these matters? Peter Hain is in for a rude shock because the Labour party position is untenable. We don't want the racist elements of the BNP, but we sure do want some change to much of the chaos of current UK policies.


Hi Andrew

I think the different Scottish approach is completely connected with nationalism - with the assertion that we are Scots and you are not, and what's best for us Scots is incompatible with what's best for you English. If the English embraced open borders, the SNP would suddenly discover reasons why such a policy is disastrous for Scotland.

The Polish case you cite is inextricably tied to nationalism too - the EU nationalism of a single European state. That's why the UK cannot legally refuse Poles, Estonians, Swedes, Greeks etc entry to the UK; but must treat Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders as profoundly foreign and "other", even though they're not really, and are far more likely to return home than many EU groups.

My impression is that most Poles working in the UK still feel intense love for Poland, and want to return to it for patriotic reasons as much as economic ones. So again, nationalism is the key.

My main concern is social cohesion. I'm not opposed to even large numbers of people emigrating to the UK and becoming full citizens with full voting rights. All I ask is that they love the place intensely, and foreswear all other allegiances. This is the US approach to immigration, and it seems to work better than the European. I've met Korean-Americans who've been in the US for barely five minutes and already seem utterly Americanised.


1400 words == 'prevented from discussing'

You couldn't make it up.


Selective quotations Neil? Cheap mockery with what would be deemed a 'fail'.

"The British People have genuine concerns which the current political correctness prevents them discussing"

I wouldn't necessarily class commenting on here as discussing it mainstream with MP's.
It is also worth pointing out that this is his opinion not yours, so mocking because you don't agree, poor effort.

You're quite right too, he couldn't make it up, most of it is true to the un-blinkered viewpoint.
You have to be smart to be a smart arse.

Iain Gill

thanks Stuart

notable that none of these great thinkers want to engage with the substance

ah well


@Iain Gill: I should note, on point of fact, that even if one *has* given birth, one is still liable to be "sent back" (deported or administratively removed? They *are* different...) - as a friend of mine is a Presenting Officer for whatever the agency's called this week, whose job it is to go to court and explain why someone should be removed.

Your point about outsourcers is well made, however. As usual, of course, follow the money - because that's what it's about at the end of the day.

Iain Gill

yep but the money is flowing out of the UK, and we are throwing our competitive position in the world away in the very sectors which are they only ones a high cost ecomony such as ours can compete in

very very rare for anyone to be kicked out once they have a kid here

but thanks its nice to see someone acknowledge that what i am saying are genuine issues

sadly open doors policy will just lead to ever more 3rd world nationals here, and we are far too small a country to have every Indian grad here! to say nothing of the loss of our own national intelectual property


It's interesting, and laudable that you justify your support for immigration on the basis of principles. It's very rare to see this kind of argument, especially with our current government. On the other hand, the principles are, in my view, false ones.
Efficiency regularity and simplicity in political principles are very important, but before those the priority must be given to constitutional principles. The fundamental idea of a polis is that it represents a group people organized and governed for their mutual defence and benefit. This outweighs all other considerations. You say that immigration is commercially beneficial. I don't believe you: some is, most is not. But that's neither here nor there, Our government is supposed to be principally for us, not foreigners, not the EU, just us. If this is not the case we don't have government, we have dictatorship. If the people of this country would like to restrict immigration (as they would if asked) then they should, and that this fact doesn't agree with your neat theories is a shame, but democracy must trump theory.


I think it's so easy today to have a strong opinion about these issues because we think about our present ... but how many of us can be traced back to immigrant ancestors. What would the world like be today if there were strict immigration laws 500-700 years ago?

Iain Gill


I agree! I for one am not against ALL immigration.

I'm quite happy if people fall in love and marry a foreigner that they have to live in one of their home nations, and 50% of the time its here. I do have a big problem when arranged weddings are used systemaitcally by some sections of the population to move people from another country here.

I'm quite happy for people to come here and work, I've worked in many other countries, I think this is healthy. But only where the skills fit the needs of the host country, and one nation is not systematically undercutting the financial position the host country workers are able to afford to work for. So within sensible limits, yes.

I am totally against wide open borders, where any of the big outsourcers can hire folk in a 3rd world nation, get them an inter company transfer visa into the UK, bring them into the UK and immediately subcontract them into the employment market here undercutting any European national - this is actually supposed to be against the current rules but there are hundreds of thousands of staff in such positions

And we need to rememeber we are a very very small country, the current rules will shortly have some of our big industries staffed completely by Indian nationals here on inter company transfer visas, this is not a fair balance for the British people

We need to compete

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad