Nigel Farage underestimates scale of immigration

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest immigration figures which show that immigration is still at near record high levels.

Net migration has dropped to 273,000 in the year to September, down 49,000 from the previous year. But this is not considered a “statistically significant” decrease.

The government is still failing to keep its promise to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands.

The news comes despite widespread public concern which helped power the successful campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

Concerns in 2013

In late 2013, there were concerns over the lifting of immigration restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria, with Britons anticipating mass immigration from those countries.

Ordinary people were mocked for their concerns. “Where are the hordes?”, they were asked, as soon as the border was opened on 1 January 2014. “Where is the flood?”

A comment under a BBC article containing the latest immigration figures

Nigel Farage was ridiculed for suggesting that 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could arrive in Britain per year.

In the run up to the 2014 European Elections, the BBC’s Nick Robinson implied that Farage’s prediction was deliberately misleading.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Immigration Minister Mark Harper insulted the intelligence of Britons and East Europeans alike when he suggested that Romanians and Bulgarians would be more likely to go to Italy or Spain than to Britain.

Of course, no one could seriously doubt that Britain – with its booming economy, international language, tolerance and openness – would draw large numbers. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy were in crisis, with significant youth unemployment and a growing problem of emigration, with many leaving for – you guessed it – Britain.

Farage issues apology and correction

As it turns out, Farage’s estimate was more accurate than those of his critics.

The new ONS data shows that immigration from Romania and Bulgaria was greater than 50,000 for the year to September 2016.

However, Farage’s prediction has proved insufficiently accurate for his liking. The former UKIP leader made an apology:

I have to apologize right now to the nation because in 2014, I said when we opened the doors to Romania and Bulgaria that I thought up to 50,000 people a year might come. I was of course condemned and laughed at…

“But I now apologise. The figure for the last year is 74,000, so I was wrong.”

A little civility, perhaps?

Those who mocked people with concerns about immigration in early 2014 were wrong to do so. They employed a straw man because no one had expected mass immigration on day one.

If some people believe that mass uncontrolled immigration is fine and dandy, that’s fine. But given that they have lost the support of the public, perhaps they might refrain from mocking their opponents. That is, if the importance of civility isn’t sufficiently motivating on its own…