Leading article: Why our new arrivals are to be welcomed, not feared

Share

As miscalculations go, the Government's underestimate of how many new European Union citizens would come to work in Britain two years ago must be up among the great forecasting errors of all time. With around 600,000 new arrivals in the past two years, this movement of population from east and central Europe to the United Kingdom is now among the largest ever in peacetime. Far from being a cause of trepidation or fear - as some have tried to make it - this should be a reason for wholehearted celebration.

There is reason to celebrate, first, because the arrival of so many Poles, Czechs and others - just the latest chapter in our long history of immigration - is evidence of the positive light in which Britain is seen beyond our shores. It is a tribute to our vibrant economy and the perceived openness of our society that so many have seen, and continue to see, Britain as a land of opportunity.

There is reason to celebrate, second, because down the years the hopes of the vast majority of these new arrivals have been vindicated. They have found work that was either not available for them at home, or only at much lower rates of pay. In so doing, they have improved their own fortunes and the fortunes of the families they have left at home. That Britain's towns and cities, and the economy as a whole, has been able to absorb so many new workers with so little upset is something of which everyone should be proud.

And, of course, the benefit flows both ways. The new Europeans, like the Huguenots, the Jews and the Ugandan Asians, have done well in and for their adopted country. Now, without these new Europeans, whole swathes of the economy would be in difficulty. In London and the South-east, the services sector - especially hotels and catering - would be experiencing severe shortages of staff. Ditto the agricultural sector in East Anglia and elsewhere. Like earlier generations of newcomers before them, they are making the wheels of our economy turn more smoothly and adding value to our GDP.

The employers of today, like their predecessors, find their new workforce enterprising, well qualified and reliable. And - to rebuff one oft-cited fear - they contribute far more to the Exchequer than they take out. While paying National Insurance and income tax, they use the National Health Service relatively little. They do not qualify for council housing, and the one pay-out they can apply for is child benefit.

It would be wrong not to note that one reason why the Government looks so positively on this latest wave of immigration is because it is probably helping to keep down inflation. In parts of the country, wages for some categories of workers - builders, house-cleaners and others - have fallen. This is hard on those already doing these jobs, but the relatively high wages often masked shortage. Lower prices for needed services, and lower inflation overall, help far more people than they harm.

Our one concern should be how many of the new arrivals will choose to go home when they want to settle down, rather than putting down more permanent roots. We have a new source of labour at a time when our thriving economy can use it. But do we have a more permanent addition to our population to help fund our pension and health systems in the longer term?

The onus now is really on us: to make Britain a place where the new Europeans feel welcome enough to stay. The exhilarating mix of cultures and experiences that has made London such a successful world city should be a source of pride. The enterprise of this latest generation of hard-working new arrivals can help spread this spirit across the country.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£19000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting, fast growing man...

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting, fast growing man...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter required. Bristol

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£14000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is very proud of t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Between the covers: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, opposite Colin Firth's Mr Darcy, in the acclaimed 1995 BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'  

To talk about 'liking' a character may be a literary faux pas, but I don't care

Memphis Barker
Hinkley Point A to the right of development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station are due to be built  

Should the UK really be putting its money into nuclear power in 2015?

Chris Green Chris Green
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen