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Net migration is up, but net migration is a meaningless term

27 February 2014

The latest figures showing a big increase in net migration are a blow to the Conservatives, although it obviously reflects on the relative strength of the British economy; at least in relation to the basket cases of southern Europe, from where large numbers have come.

It will almost certainly mean more Tory voters joining Nigel Farage’s purple revolution, especially because it illustrates the impossibility of controlling immigration while Britain is inside the EU; the number of EU citizens arriving went up from 149,000 to 209,000 in a year.

But that’s part of the curious 80/20 Rule about the immigration debate; Europeans accounted for only a fifth of migration under New Labour, and yet received at least 80 per cent of the coverage. Although non-EU migration came down last year from 269,000 to 244,000, you can see, by page 18, that this is still huge and not declining at a very steady rate.

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That is partly because the issue of concern with European migration is primarily economic rather than social; there are not going to be European ghettos in the next few years, even among the largest group, the Poles, nor an angry, alienated second generation. The cost of integration is going to be small.

The second edition of my book, The Diversity Illusion, comes out next month, and one of the suggestions I make is to introduce a three-tier system, so that for countries above a certain median income, and perhaps below a certain unemployment rate, we have open borders (it’s bizarre that we have such serious restrictions on Australians, for example). Below that there would be two other levels, the main difference between two and three being that there would exist major marriage restrictions on the third category (fetching marriages are a big obstacle to integration, but blanket rules are either unjust or ineffective). Immigration statistics would therefore take into account three categories.

I would also remove the meaningless idea of ‘net migration’, meaningless since the central problem with immigration isn’t the rising population but the social disruption; and even if it were about numbers, a great deal of Brits leaving are elderly and far more incomers are young people who will raise children, making the statistic useless.

It is also a terrible concept because British emigrants, like emigrants everywhere, tend on average to be better educated than the population at large. In fact during the peak years of migration under Tony Blair, Britain still lost more graduates to emigration than it gained from immigration. You could say, therefore, that Britain has something of an emigration problem; not that anyone will be saying that today.

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Show comments
  • itbeso

    Spot on. All this talk of European immigration while posing a new and unique problem of it’s own doesn’t some close to the rising segregation and erosion of our liberal values that immigration from third world Muslim countries pose. We let the in fighting over the EU mask the greater problem i.e the fecundity of the peoples from other cultures already here.

  • Daniel Maris

    As always we need to disentangle the issues that come under the heading of mass immigration. I’m listing them in what I think are people’s order of concern.

    1. Immigration by people who values are opposed to our own and who wish to do us harm. This concern is primarily focussed on Islam.

    2. Non-integrationist immigration – people are concerned at the failure of many communities to integrate into our culture: they prefer to retain their home language, they effectively ban outmarriage and they do not mix with the wider community.

    3. Race – although it’s not a concern of mine, it clearly is a concern for many people. People do often feel places once familiar to them have come to resemble foreign countries and they don’t like it. But I personally think that has more to do with 1 and 2.

    4. Population growth. Analysis shows that mass immigration has been feeding huge population growth in the UK – in fact some of the biggest population these islands have ever seen. The impact on public services is there for all to see.
    Less obvious are the demands it places on infrastructure – airports, motorways, rail etc.

    5. Queue jumping. Related to 4, people really do not like see recent immigrants jump the queue on things like housing.

  • Mr Creosote

    212,000 people in, against housing completions in the same period 109,370 (12 months to Dec 2013 official figures).
    It doesn’t matter where the people come from, those are the only figures you need to know. You cannot get a quart in a pint pot.

    • Daniel Maris

      Well the other figure you need to know is the increase in no. of UK citizens – something like half a million or more per annum. So, it’s something like 700,000 people and 109,000 completions.

      In parts of London the housing crisis is really come to the boil and will inevitably lead to serious social conflict within a few years.

      • Mr Creosote

        Agree entirely…but let’s not frighten the natives.

      • disqus_IEXBZMbQzd

        Yes, with the overall growth in population why are we paying child benefit? Perhaps notice should be given that no new claimants in 9 months time. If the immigrants are taking all the jobs why are we creating an idle underclass? If you can’t afford children, don’t have them.

        • HFC

          Fewer babies, lesser need for childminders; less time looking after kids, more hours available to work. Mind you, not too many of the claimant class of baby producers give an impression that they would quickly become loyal and productive employees.

          Did you mean to couple your suggestion with a proposal to limit child numbers by some means?

          • disqus_IEXBZMbQzd

            No, I was just asking a simple question that as we have a problem with a growing population, infrastructure, houses, schools, midwives, NHS etc, why are is the State giving cash subsidies to encourage child birth? Child Benefit/Family Allowance originated after the war when we were short of people. It is an anachronism.

  • Raw England

    People are not that bothered about EU immigration. What they’re extremely bothered about, and what every single poll has proven (at least 70% of Brits in all recent polls on immigration), is the immeasurable and ongoing damage done by all post-war third world immigration. Even the BBC Sunday Morning Live poll, and the Big British Immigration Row poll, both showed that at least 70% of Brits think immigration in general has been disastrous for Britain, and 70% say they want all immigration to immediately stop, and be reversed. That’s at least 70% of British people saying this. Yet they’re all totally ignored!!

    • dalai guevara

      Yep, Mahatma Gandhi visited Darwen in 1931 to deliver the message. Some still haven’t realised what happened next.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …he went down to the parlor and got a tattoo?

        • Crying out loud

          Has a beef curry and a sore belly all night.

        • Raw England

          You really are consistently rude to me, Viceroy, for some reason. You bloody Tory extremist.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …I have no idea what you’re blathering about.

            • Raw England

              From this point henceforth I’m going to refer to you as Grandad Viceroy, because you remind me of my Grandad.

              Do you mind? I’ll do it anyway : )

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …again, I have no idea what you’re blathering about.

      • frederickdixon

        Raw England said “thick twats or Leftists”. I know you’re a Leftist but…

        • Raw England

          Well, as you know, that’s because I’m not actually Right-wing in the sense most other Speccies are. I’m ethno-nationalist; aggressively anti-welfare cuts (for native English); sexualised (in a cute way) and pro absolute freedom of speech.

    • itbeso

      It’s not the race it’s the culture (religion).

      • Raw England

        Both are connected….

  • tolpuddle1

    So there’s no problem with a rising population ?

    There will be when we run out of food or energy. Or open space, for that matter.

  • Two Bob

    ‘there are not going to be European ghettos in the next few years’

    Never been to Boston or Peterborough then.

  • rtj1211

    You might do well to add new rules concerning the property market, since increasing the population by 500,000 a year (plus children born later) whilst allowing foreigners to buy property and leave it empty is the primary definition of governmental insanity.

    I propose a 100% sales tax on every property not occupied for 200+ days a year, which would rapidly remove any incentive for any foreigner to buy London property and leave it empty. It would make great media copy, go down very well with the voters and follow the basic principle that the role of houses in society is for people to live in them.

    • Rockin Ron

      The outline of a vote winning policy here.

    • frederickdixon

      Can’t understand why the right to acquire residential property is not limited to people with a right of residence in the UK.

  • Druth

    In my opinion there are already about 10-15 million too many people in this country.

    • Sean L

      Yeah that’s my impression, too. I wouldn’t mind so much if they weren’t all in London!

  • ADW

    At least Ed is one of the few MSM authors to say what otherwise is the preserve of anonymous online comments threads – that no-one objects to white Australians, NZ’ers or Canadians coming here, but they do have an issue with Asians and Africans.

    Here’s an easier way – allow immigration from those countries determined by low crime rate, an education system equivalent to the UK (not hard these days), low communicable diseases. Then do something about integrating existing communities to knock out voting fraud, first cousin marriage, FGM, dishonour kililng and any other obnoxious practice. Deport anyone who commits an imprisonable offence.

    • rtj1211

      Look, mate West is going on about how terrible Putin is and how we must help Ukraine. He’s lining up the next 40 million people ready to come here when the Bulgarian and Romanian surge is complete. Well, maybe the Balkans will come first if and when Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia get in.

      He’s just a scribe who sings for his supper. No joined up thinking to his writings.

      • frederickdixon

        Slovenia is already in, and has been since ’04. Don’t get many Slovenes here though, they probably go next door to Austria of which they were part until not very long ago. Hopefully that’s where the Serbs and Croats will go too.

  • colliemum

    Yes, ok – we have these huge numbers of immigrants because our economy is so strong, and they’re all working …
    Then why are so many of them living on the streets, literally, of London?

    You bet this will rise the votes for UKIP – after all, it’s what Nigel Farage has been warning about, but then he and us Kippers are all nutters, bigots, little Englanders …

    • rtj1211

      I’d be amazed if Farage got less than 30% in May to be honest. More likely to get 35%.

      • colliemum

        Wait until the financial news coming from the Ukraine are hitting the headlines: capital being transferred out of the country right now, the IMF ‘giving’ some 15 billion $, 35 billion $ needed ‘for now’ – this is Greece on steroids, and the Greeks again want more money.
        Cameron and Osborne have already waved their open cheque books. Once we’re told how much we have to pay to show that we ‘care’, there’ll be even more votes coming UKIP’s way.

        Interestingly enough, this opinion of outrage about the financial manipulations is shared across the continent. The EU Parliament won’t be such a cosy place any longer, after May.

  • Rockin Ron

    Cameron is stuck with another phony promise. I expect the definition of ‘net migration’ will be looked at very carefully in the coming days to see if it can be altered to make it look as if the numbers are down. We haven’t had the effect of lifting the ban on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria yet, so this is only going to get further out of control. Unless Cameron can fix the figures.

    • Noa

      Why should he care?
      He knows he only has over a year in office before he makes his next career move, to Brussels or in the well heeled footsteps of Antony Balir.

  • ohforheavensake

    And what about the measurable economic benefits?

    Nice plug for the book, by the way. I always admire a bit of blatantly self-serving self promotion.

    • Noa

      It’s an excellent book, arguably far better than “Exodus” or “The British Dream” and well worth reading for its detailed historical analysis, and insights into the causes and psyche of immigration. The solutions are of course debatable.
      And the first edition is available to download now, on Kindle or Nook,for less than a fiver.

  • dalai guevara

    Bingo, wealthy pensioners must be made to stay here and pay their fair share.
    You see, this is often ignored – wealth is accummulated here during a working life and/or merely by increasing house prices, then you turn 55 and boom, all the money goes to Orlando/Benidorm or what have you. What we need to do is construct a sufficient number of million pound pensioner pads right in the centre of our green and pleasant countryside – then we might stand a chance of retaining wealth accumulated here on home soil.

    n.b.: othere can be no doubt that this would require us to finally end the pseudo-legal shiftiness of indigenous second hand car salesmen.

    • rtj1211

      Most of them aren’t millionaires, they are middle class folks who are taking advantage of EU freedom of movement to spend the winters in places that are warmer and nicer.

    • James Strong

      I’m not sure if this is a p*** take, or not.
      You want to prevent people from leaving? Build a wall maybe, with armed guards?
      Or do you just mean incentivising them to stay?

      • dalai guevara

        It was conceived as an indirect juxtaposition to the top rated comment adding actual real life scenarios into the mix, not misplaced wishful thinking sporting a hint of Duffy-style bigotry.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …so 100% socialist nuttery, then.

          • dalai guevara

            ‘Shiftiness’ will no longer be tolerated – perhaps read Liddle’s lines tovarishch. Your pseudo-ethical Tea Party bigotry will not wash – you will kid me not, not me.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …that post is so stupid it makes my hair hurt.

        • ItinerantView

          “Duffy-style bigotry”
          You mean someone who asked a legitimate question and was called a bigot by Gordon Brown ? ie not a bigot.

          • dalai guevara

            You want open borders for yourself but no you want closed borders for everyone else but no you want open borders for yourself?

            Bigotry… dumb small-minded Duffy-style bigotry.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …yes, you socialist nutters do like to shriek about “bigotry”, don’t you?

  • Cobbett

    You’re right, European immigration is not the real issue, it’s those from the Third World. We could reduce it to zero. Why is this not being done? From the Tories point of view, it would look like they kept their pledge on immigration. There’s something seriously wrong somewhere.

    • rtj1211

      Somebody’s squeezing someone’s balls probably.

      • Cobbett

        Clegg squeezing Cameron’s no doubt.

    • frederickdixon

      I think European immigration IS a real issue because it is uncontrollable in two senses:- 1/ numbers 2/ other EU countries can grant their citizenship to whomsoever they wish and thus afford them the right to live in Britain, hence the swelling numbers of Latin Americans in this country who have been granted citizenship by Spain or Portugal.
      But I do agree that non-EU immigration is not coming down anywhere near fast enough and it should be reduced to zero – except for people of British descent whose settlement in this country would be homecoming, not immigration.

      • Cobbett

        Yeah, agreed(Spain is giving a potential 3.5 million Spehardic Jews citizenship, also i did notice a lot of S Americans when i was last there). Best thing is to accept the worst/ inevitable.

  • southerner

    Net migration approaching the levels of the ridiculous New Labour disaster. A Europhile PM who pushes achingly right-on crusades like tackling non existent climate change and allowing gay marriage.

    Cameron and his luvvies. A socialist disaster replacing another socialist disaster. And people come on here arguing there is a distinction between the component parts of the liblabcon.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Indeed and there is little question now that the problem is EU immigration:

      David Cameron’s migration pledge ‘in tatters’, as figures reveal net immigration of 200,000

      Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed net migration –
      the difference between the number of people arriving and those leaving –
      stood at 212,000 in the year to the end of September 2013, a jump of
      58,000 on the previous 12 months.

      The sharp rise was largely caused by a surge of new arrivals from countries in the south of the European Union, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, and from Poland.

      There was also an increase in numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to Britain, even though the figures cover a period before people from the two countries gained full rights to work in this country.

      Levels of immigration from the EU countries are at the highest level since 1964. However, immigration of non-EU citizens saw a marked decrease to 244,000 in the period, down from 269,000 the previous year.

    • rtj1211

      This report will add 10% to Farage’s vote in May.

  • Grey Wolf

    Wasn’t the immigration number supposed to come down to ”tens of thousands” rather than hundreds of thousands? Why didn’t that happen?

    The big thing is that absolutely none of the mainstream leaders are talking of the reasons that stand in the way of controlling immigration numbers and its quality. What a failure of governance!

    • rtj1211

      All that was media soundbites for a week or so. That’s all politicians are now. Managers of media soundbites.

  • McQueue


  • Smithersjones2013

    Net migration is up, but net migration is a meaningless term

    What a load of GARBAGE!. How else are government to assess the impact of migration on the overall population and therefore the demand for public services, housing and every other basic requirement of human existence?

    That this country has received 3 million additional people net over the last 15 years will go some long way to explaining the shortage of accommodation and the increasing general inability of public services to cope. Simply there are increasing capacity problems for our public services.

    Of all the ridiculous drivel I have read on these pages this must be the most fatuous and moronic statement yet thrown out there! Its truly pathetic……

  • Noa

    Simplfy it even further. Permit the unrestricted movement of people of indigenous British origin and ethnicity, put a total embargo into Britain on the rest.

    • dalai guevara

      Noa, have you joined the fruitloops for good?

      What interest did Liebour have in introducing all these savages?

      • CharlietheChump

        Client votes

        • dalai guevara

          George Galloway will disagree with you.

          • Noa

            Would Rula Lenska?

            • dalai guevara

              It pains me having to admit here that I have become a great admirer of Nana Mouskouri. The interweb will reveal that she has recorded songs in many languages, including Greek, French, English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Welsh, Mandarin Chinese, Corsican, and Turkish.

              What a great European. She has lived!

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …well, she must speak the socialist nutter language, if you’re to understand it.

                • dalai guevara

                  Milliputin! Welcome! Who are you supporting today? In a two party state, not supporting the right would be supporting the left then wouldn’t it? Not supporting a United Europe in all matters European would be supporting Putin wouldn’t it?

                  Yes, you are the Spectator’s very own Milliputin!

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …nope, still gibberish, lad. Can you check with your alter ego and see if the socialist nutter translator is free?

                • dalai guevara

                  You should get t-shirts printed tovarishch.

                  ————– MilliPutin —————–
                  Real Socialism for Anti-Camerluvvies

                  n.b.: have you noticed, tovarichsh? My pug franchise is absolutely everywhere, that’s the free market matey!

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …and tell your alter ego that the socialist nutter translator situation is becoming an emergency.

              • Noa

                Your taste in music is like your politics. Unfortunate at best, remarkably ill-judged at worst and in neither instance based on any appreciation or logic.

          • john king

            Answer the man please…If you can.

      • Noa

        You have all the opportunity you want to explain the real value that over ten million third world immigrants, not temporary workers, have actually added to the UK economy or to our society.

        • rtj1211

          They have added value to those who make greater profits through laying off UK people and replacing them with immigrants who will accept worse working conditions.

          They haven’t added value when you cost in all the extra infrastructure needs, welfare needs, educational needs etc etc etc.

          Show me one economic study which truly calculates the real cost of each immigrant (including all benefits paid to indigenous folk laid off or unemployed as a result of them coming).

          You won’t be able to.

        • dalai guevara

          You have all the time you want to explain why you feel threatened by your perfectly reasonable and value adding human counterparts. Nutjobs are found everywhere around the globe Noa – you are right, in most of those places you would be that foreigner.

          • Noa

            Then why, other than to expiateyour socialist feelings for a faux equality, do you not wish to share the living standards of Indian or Nigeria by experiencing them yourself? And you freely acknowledge that, unlike Britain you would be most unwelcome anyway?
            Do you believe you are welcome in the black, Somali and muslim ghettoes that are now established across England? Do you consider that you might also be more likely to receive the same treatment there as Drummer Rigby or Andrew Young? As rtj1211 points out, you will not be able to provide any evidence for the economic benefits of mass immigration, indeed the available evidence shows there there is a signficant economic cost.
            I repeat my invitation to you to provide any tangible evidence that mass immigration is of benefit to Britain. The Labour and Conservative governments who have created this present economic and societal catastrophe have not yet done so and you will not either.

            • dalai guevara

              In response to your points in the order you made them.

              1- there is no case of ‘faux equality’ – I have always advocated the equality of opportunity, not the pseudo-lefty equality of outcome. This will include any foreign participant who plays the game to our rules.
              2- Living standards are a reflection of the cultural and socio-economic wealth of respective societies – who would deny that foreign nations had something to offer? Our living standards are what they are simply due to the fact that we do not subscribe to the typical Northern European distribution of wealth.
              3- whether we were welcome in some third party state is irrelevant to our outlook here. Britain has not been welcome abroad? Is that your experience?
              4- I have absolutely no issues penetrating any of the societies you list if I wished to do so. That’s multi-culti Manchester for you. Irish Catholics have a similar base here, so do an increasingly affirmative Spanish community, so do Chorlton Lesbians, so do the Masons, so does a growing number of well-educted BBC media types. So why single out those you single out? All societies have an element of exclusivity.

              5- The benefits are endless – for a start people now actually *live* in Manchester. Unlike some might believe virtually no one did in the Eighties. I’ll leave it at that for now.

              • Noa

                “The benefits are endless”, but I see you still cannot enumerate them.
                I’ll leave it at that for now.

                • dalai guevara

                  I’ve ‘enumerated’ it. No one lived here thirty years ago. The population density in Central Manchester thirty years ago was ZERO. This is supposedly the second/third city in England! Look at Manchester now.

                  You will not accept several undeniable facts:

                  (a) Second, third and fourth cities in Britain are not ‘overpopulated’. (b) The countryside is not under threat. (c) A lack of investment in (connective) infrastructure will lead to infrastructure failure. (d) The centralisation agenda will concentrate shortcomings in one place.

                  We all know you don’t want to let go in/of Londinium. Fine. We all know you don’t support German-style land reforms. FIne. We all know you don’t want to let go of the cheap labour option, Fine. We all know you want a good return on your BTL. Fine.

                  But don’t pretend you could kid me, you cannot. Perhaps you will succeed in kidding someone else. Who knows.

                • Noa

                  You are ranting and clearly your several personalities are causing you inner conflict “We all know…”.
                  Despite every opportunity to do so you have not made a reasoned case for macro population change or provided any quantification of the economic benefits you perceive it provides.
                  Until you do I shall treat your posts with the attention they merit.

                • dalai guevara

                  When will you address the points I made?

                  1- Centralisation, your game. Status: fail.
                  The rest of England is devoid of people.

                  2- Pseudo localism, your game. Status: fail.
                  The regions will demand their say. I suggest you watch closely, Noa. You cannot claim I did not inform as to what will happen next.

                  3- Rigsbyism, your game. Status: fail.
                  Stop overpaying private profiteers with taxpayer cash. Set up a housing program that addresses the needs of the citizen which are affordability and choice.

                  4- Scrooging the low-waged, your game. Status: fail.
                  The race to the bottom is your answer, not so in Norway, Switzerland, Germany and so on. It is YOUR race. You love it. It makes you tick, just like all the other points I mentioned above. Fine.

                  You’ve got your work cut out for you, Noa. Why will you not do some work? I clearly gave you ALL the answers you asked for/required. All you need to do now is fix it.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  You are an incredibly boring socialist nutter. That is all.

      • Alexsandr

        they reckoned they would all vote labour.

        • ADW

          Got it in one. Also, they would rub the right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date, according to Neather-Neather land.

          • dalai guevara

            Only Scrooges and Rigsbys will rub the hands with glee, ADW – that ‘votes’ line is an imported line from a Republican US, it simply does not apply here. In any case, last time I looked the above weren’t characters in some Middle Eastern fairytale.

            What is increasingly obvious now is that the Scrooges and Rigsbys are increasingly foreigers (!) and you are beginning to change your acceptance of these practices. Good. Let’s stop the ‘scrooging and rigsbying’ then. Bring it on!

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …bring what on? More of your socialist nuttery?

              • dalai guevara

                Scrooging and rigsbying only when you own the factory/BTL? When foreigners own it then we need to think again?

                That’s even more stoopid simple-minded Duffy-style bigotry from you today. Impenetrable sycophancy!

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …is your socialist nutter alter ego letting you into the cooking sherry again?

                • frederickdixon

                  What on earth is this meaningless rubbish? What is “scrooging and rigsbying”? for heaven’s sake? I think you had better lay off the hard stuff.

                • dalai guevara

                  …but I d e f i n e d it right there.
                  Why do you have the urge to confirm to the world how semantically challenged you are?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …well, you’re definitely not socialist nuttery challenged, lad.

      • robbydot

        Read Ed’s book.

    • StephanieJCW


  • zanzamander

    Nor do these European immigrants off load their religious or cultural baggage on to the rest of us.

    • berosos_bubos

      cultural not include crime ?

  • Donafugata

    Ed, it is impossible to disagree with one word of this, well said.

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