As a Ukip MEP, I am proud that my party is the only one with an ethical colour-blind policy on migration. Whether you live in Portugal or Pakistan, Poland or Paraguay, you should be treated equally. We want controlled migration, to bring into the country according to the UK's needs those migrants who will benefit our country, not discriminating based upon their country of origin.
We don't want to bring dangerous criminals into the UK, but we do want to bring in hard-working aspirational migrants who have skills which the British economy currently lacks. We don't want net immigration in the hundreds of thousands at a time when infrastructure is overstretched, but we do want to help genuine refugees who claim asylum according to the law.
I recently took part in a television discussion on immigration; my opponent, who works for a top newspaper, repeatedly took every opportunity to throw mud rather than debate the issue. In this article I'm not going to take the bait. I won't pander to the liberal-left chatterati who prefer accusations of racism to proper debate, those who presume that any view except their own must be ill-informed or bigoted. Instead I'm going to look at the main arguments of those who claim that the current immigration free-for-all from the EU (with grudging limits from non-EU countries) is sustainable:
Claim: There's plenty of room in the UK for more immigrants
The argument suggests that only a small percentage of land in the UK is actually built on, and that therefore there is plenty of available room.
Across the European Union, the average population density is in the order of 300 people per square mile. In the UK, our population density is 660 people per square mile. But that doesn't tell the full story. Scotland is relatively underpopulated - and its five million people occupy an area almost the size of England. There is no major move underway to create huge new cities in Scotland. Taking England alone, the population density rises to 1,070 people per square mile.
The impact on infrastructure is also a short-term and environmental issue. The government plans to concrete over our greenbelt, with housebuilding unable to keep up with the growth in population. The rapid rate of population increase is difficult to cope with; again, a more managed migration policy prevents the myriad issues which our infrastructure will now face. To cope with the effects of immigration we need to build on average one house every seven minutes.
Claim: Migrants bring more into the British economy than they cost in benefits
The UCL study is constantly waved around, as though it proves the case. It does nothing of the kind. It proves that merely that at least some immigration is good for the UK - but then, that's what Ukip is saying anyway. The study would certainly be an embarrassment for anyone who wants to close the UK's borders altogether, but parties espousing those views have long since been consigned to the dustbin of British political history.
If five people each give me £10, and I give another five people £8 each, then overall I'm better off. I could even say that I have "received 25% more than I have paid out". But would it not be better if I had just received the money from the first five people - then I would be £50 better off rather than just £10 better off?
Even if the UCL figures are taken completely at face value, they don't prove the point that those who advocate the status quo are making.
The figures themselves have various problems (not just the interesting statistical assumptions, but they also take no account for example of the situation where the migrant workforce undercuts current workers, leading to a loss of tax revenue from non-migrants, and additional benefits paid to non-migrants).
By contrast, Ukip's policy of allowing controlled immigration - especially in areas where we lack skills - would suffer from none of these problems: we would reap the vast majority of the current benefits of immigration, with none of the downside.
Claim: There are plenty of British ex-pats living abroad - what would happen to them if we had a tougher immigration policy?
British ex-pats tend to take money out of the country; they are welcomed. The majority of British ex-pats are in non-EU countries anyway, which gives the lie to the idea that the EU's free movement is necessary for such migration.
There are, however, significant numbers of UK ex-pats (and non-EU Norwegian ex-pats for example) in Spain. Outside the EU, they would still be able to live in Spain just as current Spanish ex-pats would remain in the UK.
But I for one wouldn't blame the Spanish government if it refused to allow British criminals to remain in Spain.
Claim: Our NHS would collapse if it weren't for immigration
This claim is often repeated ad nauseum but it doesn't argue against Ukip's proposal that immigration should be properly controlled. No-one is suggesting that we shouldn't allow foreign healthcare professionals to work in the UK if they meet the standards of care required in the UK.
But this isn't a long-term solution, and we need to train enough medical professionals in the long term to meet our needs. The relatively high UK wages means that as we develop our NHS, we deprive the healthcare systems of other countries of their professionals.
Is it ethical to have a policy which leaves some of the world's poorest countries unable to retain their own medical professionals, making their own skills shortages even worse? In the long term we need to be aware of this problem and move away from it.
Claim: As an ageing population we need more immigrants to cater for the older people in our society
We have over two million people unemployed in the UK at present; this is hardly an issue. But those who advance such arguments seem to fail to spot the obvious problem: immigrants also grow old.
Claim: Immigrants do the work that British people refuse to do
This is the most patronising argument of all, yet I've heard it even from Labour Party MPs and MEPs. I don't believe that the people I meet on the doorsteps are lazy, or workshy. There are people desperate to work - and there simply aren't enough jobs to go around. Nowhere is that more true than in my own constituency of North East England. The notion that they just don't want to do the jobs would go down very, very badly indeed with local people.
But perhaps this is the real reason the 'race card' is played so often by the Left of British politics when immigration is mentioned: they're desperate to avoid debating the issue on its merits.Suggest a correction