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Like it or not, we depend on immigration

Migrants heading for the White Cliffs of Dover. Luke Dray/Getty

It’s “hard to exaggerate the extent” of the government’s fixation on illegal boat crossings across the English Channel, says Matthew d’Ancona in Tortoise. The weekend newspapers reported that Rishi Sunak had “completely taken control” of the issue, sidelining Suella Braverman. The Home Secretary herself has tacitly endorsed a “hard-hitting” think tank report urging much tougher deterrence for asylum seekers. Underpinning all this heavy-handed rhetoric are fears the public won’t take kindly to annual net migration rising to a record 504,000. As one Downing Street source puts it: “That sort of figure goes down in Red Wall seats like a fart in a spacesuit.”

What Sunak and pals really need to do is “level with the public” about why these numbers are so high. Namely, because we have built a society that is totally and irreversibly dependent on immigration. “We insist upon an adequately staffed NHS; upon social care that has the necessary employees; upon a service economy of waiters, baristas, and delivery drivers; upon round-the-clock availability of plumbers and electricians.” Every one of those sectors would “implode” without a steady supply of migrant labour – and indeed many are on the verge of doing so. Politicians know this. But unlike Margaret Thatcher, or Tony Blair on a good day, they’re unwilling to “tell the country to grow up and face difficult truths”. So instead we’re stuck with “populist appeasement” and short-term thinking.