13/04/2015 20:58 BST | Updated 13/04/2015 20:59 BST

Britain Would 'Fall Apart' Without Immigration, Says Former Conservative Minister

FAYEZ NURELDINE via Getty Images
British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt gestures during a press conference held at the British embassy to Algiera, on November 12, 2010 in Algiers. Burt held discussion with Algerian officials related in the fight against terrorism, and to examine the various aspects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, mainly in the fields of energy, non-hydrocarbon sectors, culture, education and technical assistance. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain would "fall apart" without immigration, a former senior Conservative minister has argued.

Alistair Burt, who served as a Foreign Office minister from 2010 to 2013, said on Monday evening that politicians had to make sure to counter the "negative" view of migration.

"Without immigrants in this country at the present it would fall apart. The reason why free movement of labour in Europe works is because we are taking people from sclerotic European economies - and thank goodness we are," he said.

"They are coming to work here. It eases a problem somewhere else and helps our economy grow with many benefits to all of us."

Burt, who is seeking reelection as MP for North East Bedfordshire in May, was speaking during a general election event hosted by the central-London St Martin-in-the-Fields church.

He said politicians needed to be clear that inward migration was a "positive force" for the country. "There are issues about numbers, no politician will deny that, but in countering the new fascism we've got to be bold enough to recognise what immigrants are bringing to the UK and be very clear about their value."

The former minister said the "rise of the new Right" across Europe, including the Pegida movement in Germany, was "deeply frightening" and needed to be challenged.

Burt is not the only Conservative to be concerned about the rhetoric around immigration. Last week David Cameron was urged by modernising Tories to stop trying to "appease" Ukip voters and abandon any plan to include a net migration target in the party's general election manifesto which is launched today.