I’ve been a little bit surprised at how little has been written (so far) about Mishal Husain’s BBC Two documentary Britain & Europe: The Immigration Question.
I’ve seen barely a comment about it anywhere.
For me, however, it was one of the most striking ‘landmark’ programmes of the BBC’s entire EU referendum coverage.
Why has there been so little comment? Was it because few people watched it? Or that they did watch it but found nothing to complain about?
I have to say that I found it thoroughly biased.
Yes, Mishal Husain & Co. covered their backs by featuring plenty of people from each side and making impartial noises throughout, but the programme’s structure was fundamentally biased.
That biased structure followed a classic template (however disguised it may have been):
Start by focusing on the side you don’t agree with.Give them time (say the first quarter of an hour) and allow them a good hearing so that you appear to be being fair.Then spend the rest of the programme (three quarters of an hour) taking their points one by one and systemically trying to undermine or debunk them.Add more and more attractive voices from the side you do agree with as you go on (say lots of successful, well-integrated, UK-loving EU migrants).Add other voices from the side you do agree with who people who don’t share your point of view will relate to even more (say fearful British expats).Keep adding that every case you’ve shown which suggests mass EU migration has had unfortunate consequences isn’t typical of the UK as a whole.Also keep carefully, cautiously, adding your own points pushing the narrative of the side you support.Keep including voices from the side you don’t agree with though in order to keep appearing fair, and – if possible – use them, wherever you can, to back your case (say using Matthew Goodwin and Iain Duncan Smith to rubbish concerns about benefits tourism expressed by members of the public elsewhere).And mix!
The first quarter of an hour was dominated by pro-Leave/immigration-sceptic voices (plus an empathetic if not sympathetic academic) – Sonia from Clacton, Douglas Carswell MP, Professor Matthew Goodwin, Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch and Rod Liddle. Plus Alan Johnson from Labour In for Britain (for the Remain side) – the ‘dissenting voice’ – was shown being challenged by Mishal Husain.
Despite Mishal noting ‘in passing’ that Clacton has unusually low numbers of EU migrants, this was ‘a dream start’ for pro-Leave viewers.
Then came the remaining three quarters of an hour of the programme.
Though other pro-Leave voices were included, along with those we’d already met – Iain Duncan Smith, Angie from Boston – and some hard-to-position public servants (head teachers, GPs) were also given space to point out the problems (and blessings) of sudden mass EU immigration….
…this (much longer) section of the programme focused far more on the pro-Remain/pro-mass immigration voices.
We heard from a successful Lithuanian migrant couple, Jonathan Portes of the NIESR, Alan Johnson (again), Professor Heaven Crawley, various EU migrant workers, Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Observatory, various likeable Edinburgh university students from the rest of the EU who love us, Stephen Gethins from SNP In Europe; Basia Klimas-Sawyer, a successful long-time migrant from Poland who loves England; Grazyna Lisowska-Troc, a successful Polish migrant to UK, and her charming daughter…and not one but two expat couples who love EU freedom of movement and like what the EU has done for them and who fear a pro-Brexit vote.
Mishal took on the concerns of pro-Leave/immigration-worried voters one by one – concerns about low-paid migrants undercutting British workers; pressure on schools; pressure on the NHS; concerns about benefit tourism – and undermined them.
Every place she’d gone to in order to report those concerns wasn’t typical, she kept saying. In the rest of the country the downsides of mass EU immigration aren’t anywhere near so stark, she kept saying.
Then came the sections on: pro-immigration Scotland (something Mishal asserted as a fact despite polling evidence from the BBC itself showing that Scotland is almost as keen as England to tighten up on immigration); the fears of British expats living in the EU thanks to EU freedom of movement (even though one man said he might have voted ‘Leave’ if he still lived in the EU); and, finally, the thoughts of those economically-helpful, flourishing, robustly middle-class EU migrants who have taken up living in Britain and taken up British citizenship, and who love living here, love the UK and love us.
(Following on from Alan Johnson): Recent figures from the taxman support the assertion that migration has been good for the economy.
(Teeing up Jonathan Portes): In London more than a third of the population was born outside the UK. It’s the most economically successful part of the country, crucial to the national economy. Some say the two things are linked.
(Teeing up Professor Heaven Crawley:) One industry where (migrants) play an important role is in caring for our ageing population.
(Debunking concerns about pressure on schools): A quarter of this schools pupils come from Eastern Europe and like other parts of the UK with high numbers of migrants there is real competition for places. But nationally a different picture emerges. We know that most children in Britain do in fact get into the school they want.
(Debunking concerns about pressure on the NHS): With such a high concentration of migrants Peterborough is far from typical.
(Debunking concerns about pressure on the NHS): Most migrants are young so they use health services much less than average.
(Debunking concerns about pressure on the public services in general, and teeing up Madeleine Sumption): But there is something missing in the argument you often hear about migration putting pressure on public services as a whole. Most of the arrivals from the EU are working and paying taxes. Surely that extra money should help pay for extra demand on hospitals and schools.
(To IDS, who agrees with her about benefit tourism not really being an issue): In fact EU migrants are less likely than UK nationals to claim unemployment benefit, housing benefits, tax credits, all of those.
(About Scottish attitudes to immigration, and teeing up the SNP’s pro-immigration Stephen Gethins): So why the warm welcome? As its population ages is simply set to need more people, particularly more people of working age. The Scottish government and the Treasury believe that may only be fully achievable through an influx of migrants.
(Of EU free movement and expats): It’s something that’s changed John and Irene’s lives. Like more than a million other Britons they live elsewhere in the European Union.
(On the ‘negative perceptions’ of earlier immigrants): You can even see negative perceptions in communities established by previous phrases of immigration.
(Teeing up Jonathan Portes): There’s no doubt that free movement of labour has been great for many Eastern Europeans. And some would argue there’s been little negative impact on our communities.**********
Sovereignty, regaining control over our own affairs, security, etc, are issues that matter to me much more than the fact that hundreds of thousands of Poles have suddenly come to live and work alongside us.
It’s not that this influx of EU migrants doesn’t matter at all, of course. The scale and suddenness of the post-2004 EU influx was shamefully mismanaged by our last inept Labour government (and not managed much better by its coalition and Conservative successors). And there have been too many, too quickly (thanks to EU free movement rules). And that influx has unquestionably had a negative impact on the lives of many of our own low-paid and unemployed countrymen…
…but I don’t doubt for one second that many if not most of those EU migrants have been economically and culturally beneficial to us, generally-speaking. And I’m not unhappy to have them here with us either – and, if we vote to leave the EU, I hope that many will stay with us and others will come to live with us.
And very importantly for me, most of those people have not wanted to harm us either (usually quite the reverse).
They don’t want to change us or blow us up or decapitate us in the name of their religion.
Immigrants who do want to change us or blow us up or decapitate us in the name of their religion bother me much, much more. We should concentrate on stopping them coming into our country at all costs, and on getting rid of every one of them who does manage to get it and wants to do us harm. That’s what taking back control of our borders would mean to me.
That’s my bias on this issue.This article first appeared onIs the BBC Biased
Transcript of BBC2, 14th June 2016, Britain & Europe: The Immigration Question, 9pm
MISHAL HUSSAIN: It’s the decision of a lifetime. Whether to stay in or to leave the European Union, the vast economic and political bloc that’s opened the doors of the UK to people from across the continent. Immigration is one of the most emotive and controversial issues in British politics. UNNAMED MALE: Listen, my daughter could not get a school place!
UNNAMED MALE 2: (word or words unclear) was a refugee (word or words unclear)
MH: And now it’s centre stage in the referendum campaign.
BORIS JOHNSON: You have absolutely no way of stopping it.
NIGEL FARAGE: Isis say they will use this migrant crisis to flood Europe with jihadi fighters. I suggest we take them seriously.
ALAN JOHNSON: You use immigration to frighten people – it’s always been a powerful political weapon.
MH: On one side, people claim that free movement within the EU is bad for Britain.
ROD LIDDLE: For the top 4-5%, they get a gilded life of much cheaper nannies. But if you go outside London, wages are being lowered time and time again by cheap labour coming in from the continent.
ANGIE COOK Business Owner, Boston?: I don’t know if I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this or not, I don’t care. I only employ English drivers.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: This is not an anti-migration. This is an anti-uncontrolled migration.
MH: While those who want to remain claim the economic benefits of free movement outweigh any problems.
ALAN JOHNSON: The level of immigration in terms of free movement is something that I support.
DAVID CAMERON: You will fundamentally damage our economy. That cannot be the right way of controlling immigration.
MH: How we weigh up these arguments will shape the outcome of the referendum next week, and the future of the country for years to come. (opening titles) The English seaside. Evocative of a bygone, perhaps a simpler era, when Britain had a different sense of its identity. This is Clacton in Essex, filmed in 1961 when it was a thriving resort. Today, Clacton looks like this. Like many coastal towns, it has suffered. Its biggest attraction, a Butlin’s holiday camp, closed years ago.
SONIA CHOWLES: Swan Taxis, good morning. Yeah, where from?
MH: Sonia Chowles works in a local taxi office.
SONIA CHOWLES: I have lived in Clacton on and off since I was about seven years old, um, so 23 years. I did leave Clacton for about a year but I came back, and I haven’t left since and… I have no intentions of leaving either.
MH: But life here is not easy for Sonia and her young family. Her husband is disabled and she’s desperate for a council house that better suits their needs.
SONIA CHOWLES: The housing waiting list is 15 years long, which is a huge amount of wait for someone who needs a home, so I don’t think it’s a case of no more immigrants, I think it’s a case of no more anybodies. I just don’t think the town can take any more, be them English, Welsh, Scottish, be them from the EU, be them from America. We just can’t physically take any more people into this town. There’s already too many.
MH: Clacton has a relatively low population of people born outside the UK, but immigration is a big issue here, as it is in many parts of the country. At the last election, almost 4 million people across Britain voted for Ukip, a party dedicated to getting Britain out of the European Union.
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: It’s Clacton, the largest town. I think it is the centre of the universe.
MH: How do people feel about the EU round here?
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: I think people are pretty sceptical about it.
MH: Despite all those votes, only Clacton elected a Ukip MP, former Conservative Douglas Carswell.
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: It’s the Europe of the political elite that I think people feel frustrated by and hostile towards.
MH: Clacton’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. And where work is available, wages tend to be low. As far as the frustrations of people who live here are concerned, isn’t that much more about their economic situation? The fact is that this is an area of high deprivation. If they’re going to be angry, they should be angry at Westminster?
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: If what you said was correct, then you would expect that in very prosperous Frinton, there would be less Euro-scepticism than in relatively socioeconomically deprived Jaywick. That’s simply not the case. Many, particularly on the Left, like to think that if people are disaffected and discontent, it must be caused by economics. I think economics is important. But I don’t think that’s really the issue. There are other issues to do with a feeling of control. They want to believe that they can elect a government that can take back control. And no one wants to close the borders, but people do want to control the borders. And I think that’s a quite legitimate aspiration.
MH: How are you going to vote in the referendum?
SONIA CHOWLES: I’m going to vote Out. I’m voting Out, so is my other half, and pretty much everyone else I’ve spoken to. I think immigration’s got a big part to play in the services that are overwhelmed at the moment.
MH: And if we voted to Leave, if the UK left the EU, how do you think that your life would change?
SONIA CHOWLES: I don’t think my life would. To be completely honest, I would hope it would by the time my children are grown up and have their own homes and their own children. I think that’s what we need to do it for, not for the generation now, but for the next generation that are growing up and growing into a country that at the moment is not going to be able to support them when they’re older. Whereas we need a country that will support the next generation, and I don’t think at the moment that we can do that.
PROF. MATTHEW GOODWIN University of Kent: Clacton’s journey, over the last 20 years, I think is a journey that many people in Britain have also been on, and can relate to. And I think it’s a journey that many political representatives, and also media, erm, elites, struggle to relate to. It’s a part of Britain that doesn’t celebrate what people in London celebrate. It’s a part of Britain that doesn’t cherish the progressive cosmopolitan values that people in London cherish. It’s a part of Britain that feels as though a way of life that it once knew and held tight is slipping away over the horizon. And it wants to let people know that’s how it feels.
BORIS JOHNSON: Is it not time we took back control of our immigration policy?
MH: But concern about immigration from the EU goes far beyond Clacton.
NIGEL FARAGE: We want our borders back. We want our country back!
MH: Polls regularly suggest that it is a big concern for British voters.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking to voter on doorstep) We can’t control our border with the EU from migration and that runs pretty much out of control now.
BORIS JOHNSON: We won’t be drowned out, will we? (crowd shouts ‘no’)
MH: As we approach the referendum, EU migration is, for some, the biggest issue of all. And Leave campaigners have been keen to put it at the top of the agenda.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I can’t think of any other country in the world that would not… That would think it somehow extreme to want to have border control and therefore to be in charge of how many people come into your country. That seems to me a quite reasonable position to take.
ARCHIVE NEWS FOOTAGE: (Choir sings ‘Ode to Joy’) Celebrating a new beginning, a new Europe’.
MH: In 2004, many former Communist countries joined the European Union. A moment of unity and history for a continent that had seen decades of ideological division. At the time, net migration from the EU stood at 15,000 a year. But a new era was about to begin.
ALP MEHMET Migration Watch UK: In 2004, we had the enlargement of the EU. Unlike some of our EU partners, we said yeah, anyone who wants to come from the eight countries from Eastern Europe can come straight away. Well, that was a mistake, and it’s been acknowledged that that was a mistake.
ARCHIVE NEWS FOOTAGE: A new queue for the newcomers, able to have their passports checked in the EU channel for the first time.
ALP MAHMET: The government commissioned some studies as to what sort of additional numbers might we expect, and lo and behold, they were told that it would be no more than 13,000 a year. It was a hell of a lot more than that.
MH: Within three years, the figure was almost ten times that – as annual net migration from the EU went above 120,000.
ROD LIDDLE: The public weren’t told. There was a deliberate decision by the Labour government, which I voted for, I’m a member of the party, it was a deliberate decision to keep the public in the dark about immigration, which is utterly shameful. And they did that because they knew that the public would balk at the numbers who were coming in.
MH: Do you think that the British public was misled about how many people from eastern Europe would come in after 2004, because that is the charge that’s been placed against the Labour government of the time?
ALAN JOHNSON: Not deliberately misled. They got the facts wrong. The figures were wrong and for that, I think various ministers have apologised over the years. We had 600,000 vacancies in the economy. There was a transition period of seven years, but the three most successful economies in Europe, ourselves, the Irish Republic and Sweden, actually needed people. We needed workers.
MH: But if you had had the right numbers at that point, would you have looked at them and thought, “This is going to be a lot for the country to handle. We should think carefully about how we go about this”?
ALAN JOHNSON: Perhaps, because the numbers were far higher than we expected. And we needed people over here. In a sense, the market was working because there were jobs for people to come to. But I guess that would have coloured our judgement if we’d have got, if the statistics . . . these statistics are never right, by the way.
DAVID CAMERON: No ifs, no buts, this is a promise we made to the British people and it is a promise we are keeping.
MH: Against a long-term rise in migration to Britain, David Cameron made a bold pledge in his election manifesto of 2010.
DAVID CAMERON: Net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year.
MH: That target has never been met. In fact, net migration, the number of people arriving minus those leaving the country, has risen. Last month, the Office for National Statistics revealed that in 2015, it was 333,000. EU net migration was 184,000. Is the level of immigration, at the moment, acceptable to you?
ALAN JOHNSON: The level of immigration in terms of free movement is something that I support. The level of immigration that’s coming from outside the . . .
MH: (speaking over) 184,000 people?
ALAN JOHNSON: . . . European Union, that’s 184,000 people. This is not a great crisis, incidentally. There is not a crisis out there. There is a situation where we need to ensure we have people working in jobs, paying taxes, to make sure we can cope with an aging population.
MH: There are now an estimated 3 million EU citizens living in Britain. The population of the UK is projected to rise by more than 4 million in the next ten years, half of that directly because of immigration, both from the EU and the rest of the world. The principle that the European Union’s 500 million citizens have freedom of movement means that immigration is part of our referendum debate. For some, it may well be the defining issue when they decide whether to vote Leave or Remain. So how can we assess its true impact on the UK?
IEZA ZU: One step closer to me, please.
MH: Ieva Zu is originally from Lithuania, and now now runs an online business in London, promoting eastern European fashion designers.
IEZA ZU: London is a perfect place to be because it’s a hub of fashion as well. At least, well, I think so!
MH: Ieva’s partner Paulus enjoys a successful career in finance, and they’ve started a family here. A pin-up couple for those who think migration is good for our economy. Is Britain going to be your home?
PAULUS: Well, as far as we can see in the near future, that seems to be the case. Alex was born here one year ago, and right now, our world really revolves around him.
MH: Do you feel that Britain is benefiting from your presence in the same way that you’ve benefited from being here?
PAULUS: Well, I would hope so, that we are, you know, adding value to the society and not just taking it out as a resident, you know?
IEZA ZU: Yeah, not as a person who just lives here.
PAULUS: Coming from Lithuania, that was occupied by Soviet Union and, you know, that makes you really appreciate the freedom that you have, you know?
MH: In London, more than a third of the population was born outside the UK. It’s the most economically successful part of the country, crucial to the national economy. Some say the two things are linked.
JONATHAN PORTES National Institute of Economic and Social Research: I do not think it is controversial to suggest that the substantial success of London, not just within the UK economy but perhaps within the global economy over the past 20 years is owed in large part to the relatively high levels of migration we’ve had at all skill levels. On the whole, the European Union migrants pay significantly more in taxes than they take out in benefits or public services. So either we, the rest of us, are paying lower taxes or we’re getting better public services than we otherwise would have.
IEZA ZU: Great, one more time please.
ALAN JOHNSON: I would say free movement has been positive for this country. This concept that within those borders, within that single market, you can move freely, not just goods, not just capital, but labour as well, is essential to actually making that operate and yes, it’s been good for this country. Witness the fact, you know, the Leave side often say but Britain’s the fifth biggest economy in the world. Well, it wasn’t when we went into the EU. 43 years’ membership of the European Union has helped us be the fifth biggest economy in the world.
MH: Recent figures from the taxman support the assertion that migration has been good for the economy. In the year 2013 to 2014, European migrants like Ieva contributed £2.5 billion more to British coffers than they took out. But many would argue that any economic benefits of migration have not been spread around.
ROD LIDDLE: For the top 4-5%, they get a gilded life of much cheaper nannies. Of . . . their basement extensions in Notting Hill are done both more speedily and more cheaply by Polish immigrant labour. But if you go outside London, you will see that the big, big problem there, or one of the big problems, is low wages, you know, and those wages have been lowered time and time again by cheap labour coming in from the Continent.
ANGIE COOK: Hello, Angie speaking.
MH: Angie Cook runs a transport business in Boston, Lincolnshire. She used to supply drivers for the haulage industry, but says her company folded because of competition from a rival agency.
ANGIE COOK: 9am in the morning? Yeah, no worries at all. They were bringing drivers over here by the busload. If I’d have reduced the wages for the drivers, they would have left. If I reduced the prices to the customer, I couldn’t, I wasn’t making a profit. So where do you go? And this was because someone had been across to the EU and recruited all these drivers and put them in cheap, low-cost housing that our drivers and our workers cannot compete with.
MH: Angie has started a new business. And she’ll be voting for Brexit ? because she’s had enough of the EU and its supply of cheap workers.
ANGIE COOK: Now, I don’t know if I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this or not, I don’t care. I only employ English drivers.
MH: Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of European migrants are in low-paid work. In sectors like agriculture and tourism, they’re a vital resource for many businesses.
FARM WORKER, FOREMAN(?): It’s very difficult to get any of the local people to do the job. It needs . . . it’s a very high demanding job as well.
FARM WORKER: I started with field operative. Now in winter time, I’m line operative in the factory, and I have the chance to be promoted.
MH: It’s often said that Europe’s migrants will do work that British people won’t, at least not for a low wage. One industry where they play an important role is in caring for our ageing population.
CARE WORKER: You’re going downstairs with me for a cup of tea. In the garden.
MH: One in five of adult care workers in England are born outside the UK, rising to three in five in London. The number recruited from EU countries has increased and there are now an estimated 80,000 EU citizens working in the sector in England alone.
PROF. HEAVEN CRAWLEY Coventry University: One of the consequences of us increasing the proportion of young people who go into higher education, for example, is that there are less people available, young people available to do some of those low-skilled jobs. People don’t want to come out of having a degree and then end up working in the care sector, for example. So those demands in the care sector become ones that people from within Europe, who are moving, who are arguably low-skilled, come to fill.
MH: Our economy needs the low-skilled, or the unskilled workers.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking over) Well, I fundamentally diasagree with you.
MH: (speaking over) Really? Fruit picking, warehouses, internet shopping.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking over) No, no, this has been an absolute nonsense in the UK economy for some time. You get a lot of nonsense from businesses suddenly saying to you, “Oh, we’ve tried to hire British workers, they just won’t work”. When you investigate it, you find they didn’t bother at all. They were going outside because they knew they could get a lower wage for these people and thus that would improve their profits. Now, I am fundamentally against that.
MH: A Bank of England report found that broadly, migration has had a small negative impact on average British wages. And crucially, it concluded that workers at the low-paid end of the spectrum have been more affected.
MH: As a Labour politician, a depression of wages must be something that bothers you?
ALAN JOHNSON: As a Labour politician and a trade unionist, I have never throughout my career blamed exploitation on the people who are being exploited. The trade union movement in this country, I’m proud to say, have not found scapegoats amongst immigrants. They’ve tried to tackle the exploitation. Now the Bank of England found a very small, very small, difference there, and that’s all acc . . .
MH: (interrupting) That might not feel small to people who are actually at the receiving end of it.
ALAN JOHNSON: Well, that’s… That’s about where you set the minimum wage. That’s about issues like the Agency Workers Directive. It’s a protection that British workers have. Most people coming in who will undercut the wage of those who are working here come in through agencies. The Agency Workers Directive was a very important way of stopping that, through the European Union.
MH: But this debate is about more than pay. What will the other effects be if our population really does increase by 10 million in the next 25 years, as projected? The obvious place to start is with the sheer numbers. Can Britain really support the millions of newcomers? Many are asking, where will they all live?
ALP MEHMET: To meet the needs of the population increase that is largely the result of that scale of immigration, we would have to build something like 250,000 houses a year. We are building nothing like that. It’s a nonsense to suggest that we are going to suddenly build that number of houses that are required, be it in London or elsewhere throughout the country. We are simply not going to do it. So all that is going to mean is more and more of a shortage of housing, largely because of the increase in our population which, as I say, is largely driven by migration.
JONATHAN PORTES Most of that population growth will, as it has done over the last 15 years, probably occur in London and the rest of south-east England, where of course, we know that we don’t build enough houses. Now the reason that we don’t build enough houses is of course relatively little to do with immigration. That reflects the dysfunctional nature of UK housing policy, going back for at least the past 20 or 30 years or so, the failure of successive governments simply to ensure that we build enough houses. But there’s no doubt this is a major challenge going forward.
MH: So if we may have trouble housing a growing population, what about the impact of migrants from the European Union on public services like health and education? To find out, I headed to the city with one of the highest proportions of EU migrants anywhere in the country, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. This part of Peterborough has seen large numbers of people come in from Europe in recent years. Portuguese, Poles, Lithuanians – all have made this city their home. Welcome to what is appropriately named New England. Many of the migrants come here to work in agriculture. Many farmers believe they are essential to the local economy. But what is the impact on local services? This is Fulbridge Academy, a primary school ranked outstanding by the schools regulator, Ofsted.
IAIN ERSKINE: I’ve been at Fulbridge Academy for a very long time, over 20 years here as head. So I’ve seen enormous changes. (to two children) Where have you been?
CHILD: I’ve just been . . .
IAIN ERSKINE: The main change really has been the numbers game. It has been a huge increase in the number of children in the area. It’s a densely-populated area anyway. But with all the different nationalities come in, that’s put enormous strain on school places.
TEACHER: If you look at the paragraph you have in front of you . . .
MH: A quarter of this school’s pupils come from eastern Europe. And like other parts of the UK with high numbers of migrants, there is real competition for places. But nationally, a different picture emerges. We know that most children in Britain do in fact get in to the school they want. 84% of families in this country get their first choice of secondary school, so it doesn’t suggest that there’s a massive problem with school places?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, but a recent report from the Education Department made it very clear that they’re having to build significantly more numbers of schools to deal with the plan and the forecast on migration and the existing migration. It’s just . . . it’s what they’ve said. And even beyond that, there is a strong perception and recognition that it does play a role from the British public. So there is one way to deal with it. You can dismiss it. You can say that 84% means not a problem to settle, not an issue, they’re talking nonsense. In which case, this will just grow and grow as a concern because it’s not being dealt with by British politicians.
MH: But apart from potential competition for places, what is the effect of an influx of migrants on standards?
IAIN ERSKINE: We’ve certainly found that children from other nationalities, particularly eastern European communities, are very keen on education, very positive about their children doing well. And many of the children become, by Year 6, when they leave us, if we’ve had them for four, five years, they can be some of our highest achieving children.
TEACHER: I’d like you to play A and E.
MADELEINE SUMPTION The Migration Observatory: There isn’t a huge amount of evidence on how that’s affecting what we care about, at the end of the day, which is the outcomes for pupils in UK schools. But the couple of studies that have been done were not able to identify any negative impact. They suggested that students are doing just as well regardless of whether there are new migrants coming into those schools.
MH: Another vital service always close to voters’ hearts is the NHS. We all know the huge pressures the system is under. What will happen if the population increases as projected? In Peterborough, doctors are feeling the strain treating the migrant workers and their families.
DR EMMA TIFFIN General Practitioner: We do have a large number relative to other parts of the country in houses of multiple occupancy, so several families in one house, you know, sometimes a family in one room. And as I say, the actual quality of the housing is often, you know, poor, so there are houses round here that are very damp. That in itself causes the high risk of things like respiratory infections. We do find that whole families and households present with infections particularly. Including the children?
DR EMMA TIFFIN: Absolutely, so again if you look at the A&E figures for our local hospital, they’re high, you know, particularly for respiratory infections and in the younger group.
MH: Do you therefore see migration as an added pressure on the service you can offer as a local GP?
DR EMMA TIFFIN: Yes, absolutely, definitely, and I think the number of challenges for me since working in Peterborough, is unbelievable, actually. I think language, the whole difference in health beliefs and behaviour, and actually the higher sort of prevalence of illnesses related to poverty and difficult housing conditions would be three of the biggest issues.
MH: With such a high concentration of migrants, Peterborough is far from typical. Nationally, the picture is mixed. Most migrants are young, so they use health services much less than average. For the same reason, they have more children, so maternity units can face extra pressure. But there is something missing in the argument. You often hear about migration putting pressure on public services as a whole. Most of the arrivals from the EU are working and paying taxes. Surely that extra money should help pay for extra demand on hospitals and schools?
MADELEINE SUMPTION: We shouldn’t see a big impact on services overall. Of course, there may be some localised pressures for particular areas, if there are unexpected increases in demand. There is also another factor that’s actually very difficult to quantify, which is the contributions of EU migrants as workers in the health service. So, for example, last year about 12% of newly-recruited nurses working in the UK were born in EU countries. So they are making up a significant share of that workforce.
MH: Something is going wrong in the way that we are spending. that we are spending what we get in income tax for example from these EU migrants. The Revenue and Customs said recently that EU migrants pay about £3 billion a year in taxes – is it getting lost somewhere? Why is it that we have the effect on services that we are talking about?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking over) No, well, of course it’s a very narrow way of looking at it. It’s not about saying it’s okay because someone pays taxes so that’s fine, you know, because it’s not the sole issue. The issue I come back to is about human beings. We tend to put these things into just the money, but it’s human beings, and the nature and the scale of that immigration puts pressure on people in the way that they assimilate with people who often, they’re not speaking English as a first language, often they are bringing their kids over. That makes the British people uncomfortable in many places because it is on a scale that they would otherwise not have expected. You expect a lot from people who live in communities and have to accommodate this, have to live with it, have to sort out their schooling, and many people competing for jobs with them. I think, therefore, controlling the scale of that migration is important so that they have time to be able to get to terms with that without feeling as though this is a problem for them.
MH: When we talk about migration into Britain, the debate is rarely just about the numbers or about the pressures of a growing population. It’s often been linked to something else – something emotive, something that reverberates across the UK – who gets what from the benefits system.
DAVID CAMERON: Morning, all! Good morning, good morning.
MH: In the build-up to the referendum, David Cameron spent months touring around Europe renegotiating our membership of the EU, getting, he claimed, a better deal for Britain that would persuade us to stay.
DAVID CAMERON: I’ll be battling for Britain. If we can get a good deal, I will take that deal, but I will not take a deal that doesn’t meet what we need.
MH: Top of the British list was putting a stop to so-called benefits tourism.
DAVID CAMERON: This deal has delivered on the promise I made at the beginning of this renegotiation process. There will be tough new restrictions on access to our welfare system for EU migrants. No more something for nothing.
MH: The Prime Minister’s deal involved partial restrictions on child benefit, as well as a four-year so-called brake on migrants’ ability to claim in-work benefits. Many were sceptical about the chances of this reducing the numbers.
PROF. MATTHEW GOODWIN University of Kent: We had this somewhat bizarre argument during the renegotiation with Brussels that again, the country can control net migration by restricting the amount of welfare for EU migrant workers, as if Bulgarians, Romanians and Poles are going through the welfare policies of European states and are adjusting their plans accordingly.
MH: Now the Vote Leave campaigners, even those who were part of Cameron’s government, seem to want to distance themselves from the whole issue.
MH: Is there such a thing in your view as benefit tourism from the EU?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I think if I’m honest about it, I think there may be. It’s very difficult to nail down the figures. I mean, I did see somebody say that most people in eastern Europe didn’t actually know what the benefits were here. So I’m a little ambivalent about this one.
MH: Because you sounded pretty convinced about it last year when you said that you wanted the… You know, that benefit tourism was the nut that you wanted to crack.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes, I think for those who do come over – I’ve never said they’re a vast number. If the question is, do I think that it is a huge driver for people coming over here, the answer is categorically not. I do not think that.
MH: So it turned out not to be such a large nut (fragments of words, or words unclear due to speaking over)
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking over) Well, it’s a nut in the sense of having people over here collecting benefits in a certain degree, particularly things like family benefits, which struck me as absurd. But as I said at the time, this is an issue, it’s not the issue.
MH: In fact, EU migrants are less likely than UK nationals to claim unemployment benefit, housing benefit, tax credits, all of those.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: (speaking over) I don’t (word unclear, ‘resile’?) from that at all, that’s, that’s probably true.
MH: Attitudes to immigration vary across the country. Including north of the border. I’ve come to one part of the UK where, for some migrants at least, the welcome mat has been well and truly laid out. The party in government here is a rarity in British politics – one that has campaigned for more immigration. Scotland’s free university education is a huge pull for young people from across the EU, like these Edinburgh University students from Poland and Slovakia. And immigration is perceived less negatively in Scotland than other parts of the UK. Do you feel welcome here?
FEMALE STUDENT: Yeah, I feel, I feel great. Especially here, I feel really welcome. I’ve met lots of great friends, both Scottish and international. So yeah, I feel really, erm . . . Really welcome and comfortable here, I do.
MH: So why the warm welcome? As its population ages, Scotland is simply said to need more people, particularly more people of working age. The Scottish Government and the Treasury believe that that may only be fully achievable through an influx of migrants. The Scottish National Party has been enthusiastic about the benefits of immigration and free movement of people in the European Union.
STEPHEN GETHINS MP SNP in Europe: Scotland’s a country that’s benefitted from immigration over the years. I think about Polish communities who’ve made their home here, Irish communities, English people who have come up, and people from across Europe. One thing I think is lacking from the debate is just a general acceptance that immigration is a good thing, and our country is richer, socially and economically, because of immigration. And let’s not forget that if you were to take every EU migrant out of the workforce, the Chancellor would be left with an enormous black hole in the Treasury, given the amount that they make up in terms of their net contribution to our finances.
MH: And Eastern European immigration or immigration from other parts of the EU would be a big part of what you want?
STEPHEN GETHINS Of course, that’s freedom of movement, isn’t it? And it’s something in this European debate I think we lose sometimes. You know, freedom of movement works both ways. The people from the UK benefit as much as people from elsewhere in Europe. The freedom of movement is a two-way process.
MH: The freedom to live and work in any member state is a fundamental right of EU citizens.
IRENE: (referring to car engine noise) What is it?
JOHN: What, the rattle? Not sure yet.
MH: It’s something that has changed John and Irene’s lives. Like more than a million other Britons, they live elsewhere in the European Union.
JOHN: How are we doing, boys?
IRENE: You need a woman’s touch!
WORKER: Go on, then.
MH: The couple run a go-karting business on the Spanish island of Lanzarote.
JOHN: I’m an ex-Barnsley miner, and my dad was a miner and my grandad before him. The first holiday I ever came on abroad was to Lanzarote when I were a coal miner, and I fell in love with the place then, and that became my dream, to come and live in Lanzarote.
IRENE: We’ve got a great set of boys and we don’t have a big turnover of staff, because it’s a boy’s dream, isn’t it, this job, so it’s the nearest thing to a nine-to-five, but yeah, great. And I’m the only girl. But they all do as they’re told!
MH: John and Irene are worried about the referendum. Their business relies on free trade imports from the UK. If Britain leaves the EU, they’re concerned about the possibility of paying tariffs.
IRENE: We’re definitely going to vote. We discussed it at length. We can vote in general elections but we never do because we feel, because we’re not living in the UK any more, that really we don’t feel we should do that, but this EU referendum is obviously a lot different because it will affect us. I mean, we’re immigrants in effect, in this country, and obviously with regard to the business, we have a lot of suppliers that come from the UK, and obviously any trade agreement that ceases would affect our business, so we’re looking at it very closely. The EU is a big, big thing, isn’t it, darling, for us at the minute?
JOHN: Sure. It’s a big unknown. It’s a big worry.
IRENE: It’s a very a big unknown.
MH: It’s not just those of working age who’ve taken advantage of free movement.
ROBINA: It’s the best thing we ever did, yeah, by coming here. Quite honestly, I think Tony wouldn’t have been so healthy.
MH: At the other end of the island, Tony and Robina are among the 400,000 British pensioners living elsewhere in the EU. As EU pensioners, they are entitled to the same healthcare they would get at home. They can use all the local services, and their healthcare bill is effectively picked up by the British taxpayer.
TONY: Wonderful. The healthcare here is very, very good.
ROBINA: If you have something more serious, say, a heart condition. you’d go to Las Palmas, and Tony went to Las Palmas. He had a small problem, went to Las Palmas. They paid for us to fly there. They put me in a hotel – all free, everything – and they looked after Tony extremely well. You couldn’t have faulted it. It was excellent service.
MH: Tony and Robina also have children living and working across the European Union. For their family, Europe’s free movement of people is a big plus. But they do understand why some back home would want to vote to leave.
TONY: Because I live here, and I’ve seen this island benefit totally from the EU, and it’s great, but if I lived in England, it might be a different story. You know, I, I . . . I think I would probably go the other way, but living here, I can’t fault it. Because they get, they get so much, you know. We get so much, you know, not they, we – we get so much from it.
MH: (footage of migrants breaking down fence) It’s a long way from Lanzarote to the chaos that’s been seen on some of Europe’s borders.
REPORTER: Today on a European border, children were tear-gassed.
MH: But Europe has been rocked by the huge numbers of refugees and migrants entering from Turkey and North Africa. Germany alone last year registered over a million new arrivals. It’s been controversial across the continent.
ROD LIDDLE: Every time that this fantasy land of integration that Germany believes it can foster with migrants from the Middle East and North Africa falls down into a chaos of sexual assaults, robberies and violence. Every time that is reported, every time the security chiefs tell us that for every 200 migrants coming here, one will be a supporter of Isis, every time that happens, then the vote to leave the EU goes up a little bit.
MH: Several EU countries have agreed to take large numbers of refugees.
PROF. HEAVEN CRAWLEY To be clear, the UK has said that it won’t be part of that system. And that there’s no reason why that would change. So, the UK, Denmark and Ireland are not part of that allocation. What the UK has said that it will do instead is to offer up 20,000 places to people who have not yet come to Europe. So, from camps in Jordan and Lebanon in particular, and that they will come in quite gradually, over a five year period. So, although Britain is part of the European Union currently, what we can see from that is that actually the UK has been able to exert, rightly or wrongly, quite a lot of control.
MH: It’s places like this – the borders of our island nation – that have become increasingly linked to the question of EU immigration. The Leavers say it’s simple, outside the EU we would have control – the ability to exclude people from the country. The Remainers say we already have control. Both argue that their vision makes us more secure. Following the terrible attacks in Paris and Brussels, many fear that Britain too is vulnerable.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Once you are a citizen of the European Union it is incredibly difficult for us to exclude somebody in that case, because we have to be able to demonstrate per adventure to the court that we are seeing something of a direct threat. So we don’t have that control, and that may seem to you to be marginal, but that marginal may be the difference in being able to say to somebody that we just don’t want them here.
ALAN JOHNSON: No one waltzes into this country without showing their passport, so it’s not an open door policy. We refuse around about a thousand, two thousand a year of people because we think they’re either a danger. . .
MH: (interrupting) It’s a tiny fraction of the overall numbers of EU citizens.
ALAN JOHNSON: Yeah, but it’s very . . . It’s indicative of the fact that you cannot just come to this country. But we shouldn’t have an anything goes policy and we don’t have an anything goes policy.
MH: However we vote in the referendum, it’s clear that migration from Europe has already brought great change. This is Days of Poland – the biggest eastern European This is Days Of Poland – festival in Britain. This year it attracted thousands of visitors. A festival on this scale would have been hard to imagine just a decade ago, but since then the Polish population has grown tenfold. There are now around 800,000 Poles living in the UK. While many are recent arrivals, some have been here for decades and are completely integrated into British society.
BASIA KLIMAS-SAWYER: I came to England when I was three months old.
MH: And yet these Polish traditions, Polish culture, obviously very important to you?
BASIA KLIMAS-SAWYER: Very important to me. I’m proud to be British. I love living in England and I love so much about it. I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else, and I love being Polish.
MH: There’s no doubt that free movement of labour has been great for many Eastern Europeans. And some would argue there has been little negative impact on our communities.
JONATHAN PORTESIf you look at the data, if you look at the results of the community cohesion survey, the vast majority of English people still think that the place where they live is a place where people get on pretty well, a place where there are high levels of social cohesion, however you want to define it.
MH: Back in Peterborough, 11-year-old Agata Troc is a chorister at a prestigious Church of England school. She came to live here as a baby when her Polish parents decided to settle in Britain.
GRAZYNA: We like also international food.
MH: Today, the whole family are British citizens. Agata and her parents Grazyna and Tomasz feel they are well integrated, not least with the language.
GRAZNYA: I’ve been living 30 years in Poland. For me, it’s definitely a second language. For her, it’s her first language. It’s a big difference between us. She’s got schooling, she’s been raised here.
MH: And when people ask you where are you from, what do you say?
AGATA: I just say I’m from Poland and I… For about three years some people don’t know I was born in Poland. Sometimes they ask where I was born and I say in Poland, and they’re just like, oh, really? But they don’t believe me.
MH: Because you sound just like . . . just like them.
MH: What would you say to someone who is going to vote for the UK to leave the European Union?
GRAZYNA: Crazy. It’s just.. For me, people don’t realise how much benefits we’ve got staying in the EU. There are so many small countries, we… In unity there is our strength.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I want to be welcoming to all people from all nationalities, but there is an issue if you let people come in at their own numbers, the growing numbers that there are, at a scale which is unprecedented. My argument is that it’s, therefore puts pressure on people.
ROD LIDDLE: The public knows a lot better than the BBC does about immigration and has a far better grip on the subject. And they can see that Polish people, there’s no cultural problem, there is not the remotest cultural problem, at all, there is an economic problem, and they wish it would stop, because it harms their income.
MH: You can even see negative perceptions in communities established by previous phases of immigration. This is Brixton in south London.
VOX POP MALE: Don’t get me wrong, Mishal, I do support migration to an extent, but my concern is that there has to be some control as to how much we can realistically accept without causing any particular damage to the system. We welcome them but we have to have a cap or else we are going to have such an influx that we can’t manage.
VOX POP FEMALE: I saw some statistics the other day and the majority of these people are coming here to work ? it does affect our housing, but then why aren’t we building houses? We didn’t have enough houses for our own people.
MH: What are the important issues for you?
VOX POP FEMALE 2: It’s jobs and, of course, also the issue about immigration, and a whole lot of people coming in here then basically not working and feeding off the benefit system, so that’s a big issue.
VOX POP FEMALE 3: Yes, it is.
MH: Is it an issue that would make you vote to leave?
VOX POP FEMALE 2: For me, yes, maybe.
VOX POP FEMALE 3: Yes, of course, it will be.
VOX POP MALE 4: There are a lot of people here now, so if we be by ourselves, I think it will be much better. Too many immigrants.
MH: There is no doubt that immigration is a complicated and an emotive issue. Survey after survey has shown that most people in Britain favour a reduction in the numbers coming in. Leaving the EU could lower those numbers, although it’s important to remember that around half of all net migration has nothing to do with the EU. Those who want us to stay in say we would be mad to take the economic risk of leaving just to reduce immigration. It’s an argument playing out among the politicians.
NIGEL FARAGE: Good, good.
DAVID CAMERON: You will fundamentally damage our economy. That cannot be the right way of controlling immigration.
BORIS JOHNSON: You have absolutely no way of stopping it.
MH: And on the streets.
ROD LIDDLE: I think two things will decide the referendum.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Leaving the EU is a one-way ticket to a poorer Britain.
ROD LIDDLE: One is if people think they’re going to be skint as a consequence of us leaving the European Union.
BORIS JOHNSON: Knickers to the pessimists, how about that?
ROD LIDDLE: The other is if there may be a way to address our immigration problem by leaving the EU.
DAVID CAMERON: There are good ways of controlling migration and bad ways. A good way is what I did in my renegotiation.
NIGEL FARAGE: Isis say they will use this migrant crisis to flood the continent with jihadis. I suggest we take them seriously.
MH: In recent weeks, the rhetoric on immigration has been stepped up.
BORIS JOHNSON: It’s vital that on June 23rd, we do exactly what it says over there and take back control of our immigration system.
ALAN JOHNSON: I was brought up in the slums of Notting Hill, when Oswald Mosely was on the street corner saying, your jobs areas corner saying, your jobs are being taken by immigrants. I lived in Slough for many years, with a big Asian population, where people said, these people are taking your jobs. Now all of those communities have changed. They’ve all changed, and there are a very small number of people who want all of that back to some sepia-tinted world of the early 50s that doesn’t exist.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Border control isn’t about saying no to migration, it’s about saying no to just open ended migration that suits people to pay low wages. My kind of idea about migration is to say, what does Britain actually need? Do we need skills? Do we need software engineers coming from India? Absolutely. If they’re there, and they’re bright, we don’t have enough here. We want to get more trained. Do we need more people to teach people software? Yes. I want to balance this out. This is not an anti-migration. This is an anti-uncontrolled migration.
ALAN JOHNSON: We are not going to stop people moving around the globe by leaving the EU. This suggestion that I’ve heard all my life from various people that, you know, you use immigration to frighten people. It’s always been a very potent political weapon throughout my life.
MH: It’s a real concern for voters.
ALAN JOHNSON: It’s a concern for voters. It’s also a potent political weapon for some politicians.
MH: For now, the politicians hold the floor. But soon it will be your turn to cast your vote. Immigration is just one issue in Britain’s often complex relationship with Europe. But how you feel about it may decide whether you think Britain should stay in or leave the European Union.