It baffles me that the immigration debate in Britain always focuses on how much it costs to bring in immigrants, rather than how much they offer back. Right now in the US, for example, 60% of the top technology businesses have migrant founders. Can we in Britain really afford to risk turning away the next Sergey Brin?
With the pressure that the current immigration discourse is putting on Romanians and Bulgarians living in the UK, it wouldn't be surprising if the girl with the beautiful high cheekbones didn't take my friend's question as a genuine invitation to talk a bit about herself and as an opportunity to learn something about him.
Ever since the coalition came to power in 2010, they've carried out reform after reform under the sanctimonious presumption that we've got to 'trim the fat' off of Britain's social safety net... Less than a year into the implementation of these callous reforms, that same, self-inflicted shot in the foot has landed us on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster.
One of the familiar gripes of those opposed to immigration is that we don't talk about it; but if you're a migrant, it feels like we do little else. Early February show on Channel 5, the Big British Immigration Row, sums up everything that's wrong with the current discourse on immigration: lots of heat and very little light.
The reality is that in the case of Romanians 'benefit tourism' is a myth because from 5.7million working age benefit claimants in the UK last year, only 1,740 were Romanians, which represents 0.03% of the total claimants, or 1.45% of the Romanian community in Britain. To compare, the percentage of working age benefit claimants for the whole UK population is 9.5%.
Immigration may well prove to be the death knell of the EU as we know it. But if it is, it will not have been due to immigration itself but rather to Brussels' tone deaf, inflexible, and insensitive response to the issue. The matter is highly emotional and goes to the very heart of people's values, sense of fairness, cultural identity and social cohesion. Trying to counter that either with cold numerical and economic arguments or with dismissive insults of xenophobia is not only futile, it is grist to the mill for the political parties which have successfully made immigration their main platform and that seem on track to form the largest single grouping in the European Parliament after the May elections. But it's worse than that. The Brussels response will be constructed by many as being absolute proof of a type of Union they reject.
Over the last five or six years, as poverty and hardship have deepened, unemployment soared and inequality increased across Europe, so has xenophobia festered - with the rise of far-right parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece, and uncomfortable parallels can be drawn between the current socio-economic climate and that of the 1930s, which paved the way for Hitler's rise to power.
My hunch is that, paradoxically, the Swiss Yes to immigration quotas makes a Scottish No to independence more likely. There'll be more warnings of the price to be paid for years of political uncertainty, potential instability and investor nervousness. Pro-independence campaigners will call it bullying; the anti-independence camp will call it setting out the facts.
In the debate the Home Secretary claimed that the whole point of the measure to make it easier to remove certain people from the UK. However she was unable to explain how she was going to remove people whom she had rendered stateless and so would have no passport.
It is vital for bisexual people's stories to be heard; for biphobia and bi erasure to be called out for what they are. Bisexuality doesn't fit neatly in a gay/straight narrative. That doesn't make biphobia any less hurtful or harmful - sometimes, as in this case, in a "life and death" sort of way.
Hopefully a compromise can be found that can both please the EU while still allowing Switzerland the right to make sovereign choices without pressure to just go along with what the EU is basically telling them to do.
Everyone knows that you shouldn't be allowed to write and publish anything if you have to resort to cliché. Which reminds me of the words of Keynes: When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? Do you see what I did there?
The European Union doesn't just have a British problem. The Eurobarometer shows that public opinion towards the EU was undermined across Europe by the financial crisis. The ratio of people feeling positive or negative about the EU was around three to one before the crisis but is now evenly balanced.
This is my message to the people of Britain: Ignore the populist nonsense served to you by vote-hungry politicians during the last months, especially since they paint this profoundly absurd picture: Romanians will come to the UK to steal jobs, ask for benefits and abuse the public health system... Do not believe them. UK is not besieged by waves of migrants waiting at the borders to invade you.
I understand the concern of many people in the UK who feel that immigration is generally bad, and that a flood of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants will affect their job prospects, or those of their offspring, but personally I think moderate immigration is a good thing.
If you're going to make prejudicial remarks about anyone's health condition, and HIV is now considered a long-term manageable condition by the NHS, then perhaps Dr Lee should find out the facts first. So here is an open invitation to Dr Lee...