Is it really wise for David Cameron to threaten us with migrants? That is what he has done today with his warning that if we ‘leave’ the EU then the migrant camp in Calais could have to be moved to Folkestone, Dover, or our own back gardens. Not only is the claim wrong (our Calais arrangements are with France, not with the EU) it neatly shines a light on the biggest failure of his time in office.
The ‘jungle’ in Calais is currently home to around 5,000 people. They are there because the EU does almost nothing to control its external borders and made a principle of abolishing its internal borders (‘free movement of people’). As Nick Cohen noted in yesterday’s Observer, the people in the camp in Calais are economic migrants, not refugees, and as such they have no more right to be in the EU than anyone else in the world. They are there because they broke into the EU and now they are trying to break into Britain.
But let us say, notwithstanding last week’s ‘concession’ crumb from Brussels, that the British people do what David Cameron is trying to scare us into not doing, and vote to leave the EU. And let us say that the French and the British never again want to do business with each other, and the dreaded camp-dwellers of Calais are immediately shipped over to the South East of England.
How long would it take? Months? Weeks? Well, if we emptied the camp at Calais in a week and brought all the inhabitants here it would still be less than an average week’s immigration into the UK during David Cameron and Theresa May’s time in office. And even if that camp filled up again every single week then that still wouldn’t be worse than ‘managed migration’ under David Cameron and Theresa May. Remember this is the government that promised to bring migration into the UK down from the hundreds of thousands a year to the tens of thousands, yet just last year saw a record high of 330,000 people migrating into the UK. All of which has brought negligible economic benefits to Britain, but has greatly further damaged (to an extent no one seems to want to admit) the possibility of our having any coherent future as a country.
Now the interesting thing in all this is that for six years now, whenever the PM or Home Secretary were confronted with their immigration failure they both used just one excuse: ‘It’s the EU’s fault.’ So it is really fascinating to watch a PM who used this excuse for six years now threaten us that immigration will get out of control if we don’t vote with him to stay in the EU. The sole excuse for his U-turn is a ‘renegotiation’ which does not even pretend to do anything about slowing the flow of people.
I rather suspect that people can see this for the nonsense it is. If we were an independent, sovereign country then we could have borders which worked and remove people who ought not to be here. If illegal immigrants really were constantly allowed to flow in from France then we would ensure that they just flowed right back out again. However, if the British people are successfully scared into voting to remain in the EU then no future UK government of any political stripe will be able to stand against any of the immigration policies of the EU. A Calais a week will look like an idyll. Particularly since the main EU immigration policy at the moment is to encourage in millions of people each year from the most impoverished and radicalised parts of the world and only then work out that most of them shouldn’t be here.
Still I imagine that by tomorrow ‘Project Fear’ will have moved onto some other argument. Perhaps it will be Alan Johnson’s argument that the European Union is the only thing that can save us from the jihadists. Or Nick Clegg’s argument that if we leave the EU then we will be able to do nothing to stop our children being abused by paedophiles. My own hope is that the ‘In’ campaign keep telling us that Britain was a sad and inconsequential little country that achieved nothing of note until the 1970s when the nice Europeans took pity on us and made us into something. I love that one.
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