We can only defend our way of life by rejecting the claims of the world's poor

We should admit only those we can assimilate. As Enoch Powell said so wisely: "Numbers are of the essence"
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The Independent Online

Europe is facing a moral challenge: a challenge from the wretched of the Earth. They are demanding a more equitable distribution of the globe's resources; above all, they are demanding the right to settle here, in our affluent and not over-populated continent. The response which the present generation of European politicians make to this challenge will have a crucial influence on all our futures. Thus far, the signs are not good.

Europe is facing a moral challenge: a challenge from the wretched of the Earth. They are demanding a more equitable distribution of the globe's resources; above all, they are demanding the right to settle here, in our affluent and not over-populated continent. The response which the present generation of European politicians make to this challenge will have a crucial influence on all our futures. Thus far, the signs are not good.

Though the Seville summit discussed the topic, it did so in muddle and confusion, ending in a blend of liberal guilt, opportunism and gesture politics. It showed none of the clarity and hard thinking which the situation requires. No one insisted on the fundamental point: that we can only defend our own values, freedoms, prosperity and way of life if we reject most of the claims of the world's poor.

That might strike many readers as a harsh, un-Christian attitude. So it is. Such an approach to the problem of world poverty is incompatible with the precept of the New Testament, which places an inescapable obligation on every Christian to share his goods with his neighbour and to recognise all mankind as a neighbour.

But so what. That may be Christianity; it is not how Christians live. As a matter of daily routine, the overwhelming majority of Christians – and non-Christians – opt to protect their own living standards. They respond to the poor of the Third World by pulling up the drawbridge. Many of them also insist that European governments should take similar action on their citizens' behalf. The governments ought to respond, and not only out of electoral appeasement. The practical case against uncontrolled immigration is overwhelmingly strong.

Though modern Europe may seem relatively harmonious, this is a recent development which owes nothing to the moral depth of our civilisation. Our stability is the product of war, exhaustion and blood-drenching, plus weapons of mass destruction which ensured that any further European-based world war would be the final one. We only learned to live together because we came so near to wiping each other out; we only just succeeded in crawling away from the abyss.

Yet even in modern Europe, ancient ethnic quarrels persist: the Basques, the Northern Irish, and the antagonism between Flemings and Walloons. We may pride ourselves on our cosmopolitanism; we cannot be certain that we have learned how to make multi-ethnic societies work.

That is a powerful argument for caution on immigrants. Apart from those whom we can easily assimilate, we should only admit immigrants in numbers small enough to facilitate assimilation. Broadly speaking, this is the position in Britain. As Enoch Powell said so wisely: "Numbers are of the essence." Our immigrant and immigrant-descended population is not so numerous as to cause unending trouble. Although we have problems, they are strictly localised, and should not be beyond the wit of government to solve.

That is far from the case in France, which now has between five and six million Muslims. Islam's often troubled relationship with other faiths is not unique. None of the great monotheistic religions has ever found co-existence easy; monotheists make awkward neighbours. Often, it is only when they cease to believe in their own faiths that they find it easier to accept others; tolerance tends to be a product of decline and decadence.

Unlike Christianity, however, Islam is undergoing a religious revival; decadence is in decline. Equally, further conflict between the West and militant Islam is a certainty. Even though the French themselves will take little part in such disputes, especially under American auspices, it is inevitable that trouble will spread to France.

Already, mini intifadas are being reported in some southern French towns, with Muslim ghettos, no-go areas for the police and mounting tension between Muslims and the native French population. These difficulties are bound to become worse. No solution is in sight; the French have acquired an endemic ethnic problem in a fit of absence of mind. The rest of us must avoid making the same mistake.

Nor do demographic arguments support mass immigration. Though it is true that in many European countries populations are ageing while birth rates decline, we should hesitate, for several reasons, before filling any potential gaps with non-European migrants.

The first is Eastern Europe, where the expansion of the EU will open up new supplies of cheap labour, especially as the European agricultural regimen is bound to force many peasants off the land. The second is the changed nature of work. Up to now, the Luddites have always been confounded; technological revolutions have created more jobs than they destroyed. But it is not clear that this will continue to be the case. It seems probable that computers, micro-chips, etc., will eliminate whole categories of human labour; we may well find that the labour market contracts even faster than the population.

Opportunities for specialised workers, such as the people who invent the computers, will be constant. To a limited extent, this is an argument for immigration; to a much greater extent, it is an argument for education. Does anyone believe that we in Britain are realising the full educational potential of our population? We should be able to supply many more of the needs of the infotech labour market from our own people. This would also relieve some of our own social problems.

Above all, the world's labour market will continue to be a buyer's market. If it does turn out that the demographic pessimists are correct, and that Europe is faced with labour shortages, it will always be easy to fill the vacancies.

Mass migration is like mass tourism; it risks destroying that which it seeks. Not that this will deter migrants. Even a de-stabilised Europe, with crime and tension increasing as social harmony disintegrates while welfare and other budgets come under a double pressure from new social problems and a taxpayers' revolt, will continue to entice those fleeing far worse conditions, and barbarous regimes.

Here, Tony Blair is right. We should re-orientate our aid budget in order to help poor countries to make themselves more attractive, so as to persuade the migrants to stay at home. But that is only part of the solution. Much of the world will continue to be mis-governed; much of the world's population will continue to eke out a wretched existence barely above subsistence level, and frequently falling below. In such circumstances, it is only natural that millions will look towards Europe in the hope of bettering their lives.

It is easy to sympathise with such people; but sympathy is no basis for policy. That should be founded on realism, and the road to realism lies through selfishness. The primary moral responsibility of European governments is not to the peoples of the world, but to the peoples of Europe.

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