Boris Johnson has said that it is “human nature” to be fearful about being swamped by immigrants and those who seek to curb it are “not bad people”. The Mayor of London said it was the role of politicians to make the case for immigration.
He made the comments to the Evening Standard during his recent trip to the Far East. Johnson said it was up politicians to build a “welcoming policy” to immigration. The Mayor was on the trip to promote London as a business destination, and comes after it was revealed net migration rose to 260,000 a year.
He pointed out that the UK did need foreign investment as we did not have enough billionaires in London to do it all ourselves.
His comments will be seen as a rebuke to the government, which has limited immigration from countries like Malaysia in order to placate voters worried about Britain being overcrowded. The policy has meant that it is harder for Malaysians to enter the UK. As the number of non-EU nations coming to the UK has fallen they have been replaced with Eastern Europeans who are automatically allowed into Britain.
Speaking in Kuala Lumpur he said: “All human beings are prey to that feeling [of nervousness about immigration]. It’s part of human nature. It doesn’t mean people are bad people, ok?
“What we’ve got to do is point out that there are benefits of immigration and that there are benefits of having talented people, and having a welcoming policy to people that will work hard.”
His comments are likely to add to the debate in Westminster about moving to an Australian-style points system of immigration. This does not limit numbers of immigrants but only allows those with skills in short supply to enter the country.
The policy is popular on the political right and is also UKIPs policy, but it would be impossible to implement as EU nationals would still have the right to move to the UK. David Cameron has said he plans to continue with the limits on non-EU nationals, and a restriction on benefits from those within the EU.
The UK does already offer a ‘Tier 1 Visa’ that allows entrepreneurs to enter the country for three years if they make an investment, but this does not help with recruitment of skilled foreign staff.