There is something missing from our debate on immigration. As articulated by our elites, it lacks an understanding and sympathy for human beings as we are. It sees us instead as defective calculating machines that need to be re-engineered in order to make the correct choices.
The latest Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on EEA migration is in many ways an admirable piece of work. But, in its assumptions and way of proceeding, it is cut largely from this technocratic cloth.
In his foreword to the report, Alan Manning says that its purpose is “to provide an evidence base for the design of a new migration system after the end of the implementation period in 2021”. However, when he says later on that “EEA migration has had impacts, [but] many of them seem to be small in magnitude when set against other changes”, and specifies a 1.7 % increase in prices following the EU referendum, a few alarm bells should be ringing.
By any measure, the changes in our communities and increase in population over the past 20 years have been more significant than a small adjustment in prices brought on by exchange rates. This, though, is the level of elite discourse on immigration. It focuses on ‘data’ and ‘evidence’, but in an abstract way, directed towards business interests and removed from the lived experience of people. The MAC itself acknowledges there may be dangers to this approach – but only deep into the report, far from its headline statements.
It is an approach characteristic of that behemoth which dominates British government and wants to keep the tap of mass immigration firmly on – the Treasury. George Osborne, now editor of the Evening Standard, articulated this when he attacked Theresa May’s immigration targets as “economically illiterate”: “If I had a regret,” he said, “it’s not that we didn’t manage the immigration system properly… we were, I think, too intimidated to make the arguments about the benefits of immigration.”