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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Network Manager / Senior Network Engineer

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Opilio Recruitment: Business Development Manager

Competitive: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Bu...

Recruitment Genius: Systems / Network Administrator

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunity for someone l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

David Cameron’s immigration speech: I broke my promise; this time will be different

John Rentoul
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game  

Manchester was ahead of the pack in honouring Alan Turing

Simon Kelner
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game