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High net migration? Bring it on

Migration numbers have hit a record high. Why aren't Tories celebrating this as a win for Brexit? 

November 23 2023, 17.20pm

This week it was announced that net migration hit the record-breaking high of 745,000 in 2022, according to revised figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Initially, the figure for last year was 606,000 - already deemed a record high. But looking at the numbers again, taking into account “unexpected patterns” of migrant behaviour, the ONS says the actual figure was almost 140,000 higher than first thought. 

This is, clearly, embarrassing for the Tories, who have made slashing net migration a totemic issue. Backbenchers have already started expressing their anger, calling the numbers “completely unacceptable” and “unsustainable both economically and socially”.

Rishi Sunak himself has already said, earlier this year, that the numbers were “too high, it’s as simple as that”. The PM is now planning yet another petty, borderline sadistic immigration crackdown, including cutting the number of relatives that foreign healthcare and social care workers are allowed to bring with them to just one; the party of family values is turning to shredding families, once again. Ministers are also reportedly considering ditching the shortage occupation list, which would make it more difficult for British employers to bring in overseas staff to fill the yawning gaps opened up by the pandemic and Brexit.

"The blinkered insistence that growing immigration numbers is a negative thing is yet another example of the Tories choosing optics over substance."

Watching the Tories consumed with rage at their own failed, contradictory policies seldom fails to amuse. However, under even a moderately sane Conservative government, a rise in net migration could be good news. Rather than seeing these figures as a failure to “take back control”, the Tories could be celebrating these numbers of people keen to live and work in the UK as a rare instance of some concrete evidence for the success of the Brexit project and a testament to this nation’s continued global appeal.

But to hell with Brexit: the latest numbers really are a cause for celebration, in our reality, today. Britain needs immigrants. Desperately. We need more migrants to boost our sluggish economy and to alleviate the dire shortage of labour and skills. Immigration is a vital resource, a driver of economic recovery and a crucial source of support for public services - that’s without mentioning the obvious cultural benefits that come with a diversified population. 

The blinkered insistence that growing immigration numbers is a negative thing is yet another example of the Tories choosing optics over substance. Recent trends suggest that current high levels of migration may well become the norm rather than the exception for the UK, whatever strange measures the government scrambles for to reduce immigration simply for the sake of it. We need a government that is able to utilise all of the potential benefits of high net migration, rather than becoming stuck in a damaging cycle of fetishising xenophobia. 

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