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Immigration is about more than economics

Sir, Your editorial “The European migrants that Britain depends on” (February 24) rehearses a familiar set of arguments which, as ever, fail to take into account a number of critical points.

First, immigration undoubtedly increases total gross domestic product — it would be strange if a larger population did not give this result. But the correct measure should surely be GDP per capita, and here there appears to be vanishingly small changes. Second, any gains from immigration do not appear to be fairly shared. As Dame Louise Casey wrote in her review about opportunity and integration, “it has often been more prosperous middle-class families who have benefited most . . . for example in the service economy or in reciprocal benefits of globalisation such as cheap foreign travel”.

Third, arguments about immigration cannot be conducted through an economic prism alone. If we continue as at present, the Office for National Statistics suggests that the population of the UK will increase by 9m over the next quarter century. Inter alia this will necessitate building another 4m dwellings together with their associated infrastructure of shops, schools, hospitals and so on. What price the greenbelt in these circumstances?

Highly focused overseas recruitment has a vital role to play in our economic future. British industry, commerce and public services have to wean themselves off overseas recruitment as the default option — what the Migration Advisory Committee has memorably called “the get out of jail free” card. Instead efforts must be devoted to engaging with, training up and developing the members of our “settled population” of every race, colour and creed. The future social cohesion of the country demands no less.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

House of Lords, UK

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