Britain is in desperate need of workers. So why is he trying to stop them from entering? | Simon jenkins


NOTnothing makes sense. Along England’s east coast, British employers are scanning the horizon. They desperately need all the migrant workers Boris Johnson will bless with visas to pick fruit, kill turkeys, staff hotels or care for the elderly. At the same time, along the south coast, British politicians are screaming in horror at the cargoes of people as they land, desperate to offer their services. Brexit is a jumble of hypocrisy.

Immigration materially affects very few Britons. It is more a feature of the politics of xenophobia. The 24,000 asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel so far this year are presented by enthusiastic conservatives as presaging a new Viking horde or a Norman conquest. There is something threatening about people arriving at the beaches, rather than going through Terminal 5.

Turn around, shouts Home Secretary Priti Patel. Send them to Albania or the Falklands. Blame the French. Blame the Border Force. Blame those snowflakes in the lifeboat service. If the refugees come, make them regret that they never left the house. Johnson may have supported immigrants when he was mayor of London – and needed them. Now he apparently spends half of his time trying to stop them.

In fact, the cabinet should drop to its knees and thank for only having to deal with 24,000 refugees. Italy has 60,000 this year. More than 150,000 entered Europe, mainly through the Balkans. This is paltry compared to the Syrian wave of nearly a million in 2015, which now appears to have miraculously merged into the German economy.

Most of these refugees are by definition “middle class”. They paid dearly for their trip. These are doctors, engineers, academics and nurses; builders, cooks and farmers. These are professions that Europe sorely needs and that open labor markets in Europe, especially in the UK, have traditionally welcomed.

The liberal claims of the main Brexiters now appear only superficial. Behind the authoritarian slogan of “take back control” and fueled by the toxins of containment, Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg erect a pastiche of a managed economy. They have to decide how many Bulgarian butchers Britain needs, or Romanian fruit pickers, or whether a German truck driver speaks enough English. They are control fanatics. Meanwhile, the 650 Chinese millionaires who arrived this year are a “push for Britain”, while a needy Afghan doctor is a threat to the British way of life.

We must never forget that the main driving force behind the current surge in European immigration is the West’s crusade to devastate the Muslim world over the past two decades. Its destabilizing chaos has spread from Afghanistan to Iraq, Kurdistan, Libya, Syria and Lebanon. We can hardly complain when the victims of our arrogant assaults come knocking on our door.

Of all Brexit fantasies, the dumbest was that it would allow Britain to weather the tides of global migration. A robust economy shouldn’t have to either. Growth needs immigrants. The idea that Britain could in fact prosper by denying itself access to the EU labor pool was illiterate.

Instead, in London we now have intellectual and human obscenity. Near the chronically understaffed NHS University College Hospital is a hotel recently requisitioned by the Home Office. It is filled with hundreds of mostly English-speaking Afghan refugees, kept in limbo by Patel and banned from work. Why? This is a sure sign of a state gone mad.


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