Just over half a million people migrated to the UK in the year to June. And half a million the year before – actually, it was 517,000, but let’s not quibble. A million, then, in two years…that’s quite something. But you wouldn’t have known from the news about the new immigration stats from the Home Office, which focussed instead on a rise in net migration to 182,000 (ie the number of people arriving, less the number of Brits leaving). Now, for all the noise about Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Britain, about half the new immigrants were from outside the EU – 242,000, down from 282,000 the previous year. You’d never think it though, to judge by the PM’s obsessive focus on EU migration – which plainly is an important issue, but not the only one.
I’ve talked about this before, but it’s gross migration, not net migration we should really be talking about, and especially non-European migration. Because it is the numbers arriving, not the numbers leaving, that have an effect on community cohesion, the sense of a common society, especially when the newcomers bolster an existing, large migrant body. And if, over four years, a million people from outside Europe are coming to Britain, however excellent and hardworking they are individually, it really does change the face of the country and its sense of its own identity. Unless, of course, they’re largely Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and Americans, who culturally have a good deal in common with the locals – and they’re not.
It obviously suits the government to focus on net migration, because the figures are less scary. I don’t quite see why the rest of us have to go along with it though.