Jane Mathews, Express (London), January 7, 2014
Nigel Farage has called for a five-year halt to immigration by people who want to settle permanently in the UK.
The Ukip leader said that he wanted to see immigration levels fall and an end to the “open door” policy for Bulgarians and Romanians, even if it had an impact on the British economy.
His comments came as a survey revealed that more than three quarters of people want to see a cut in immigration.
Mr Farage told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “If you said to me ‘Would you want to see over the next 10 years a further five million people come into Britain and if that happened we would all be slightly richer?’, I would say ‘Actually, do you know what? I would rather we weren’t slightly richer and I would rather we had communities that felt more united and I would rather have a situation where young unemployed British people had a realistic chance of getting a job.’
“So, yes, I do think the social side of this matters more than pure market economics.”
He continued: “Let’s be flexible on work permits, let’s recognise that we do have some skills shortages in the British economy – which is very much a failure of our education system.
“But in terms of immigration, in terms of people coming to settle, I would suggest that for up to a five-year period we don’t have people coming to settle until we sort out the mess.”
A BBC Two documentary The Truth About Immigration, to be shown tonight, will reveal that more than three quarters of the British public want to see immigration levels slashed.
The findings come nearly a week after restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria were lifted.
However, the British Social Attitudes survey found that slightly fewer people now think immigration is bad for the economy – 47% in 2013 compared with 52% two years previously.
Penny Young, chief executive at NatCen Social Research, which carried out the poll, said the survey showed that “public desire for a cut in immigration to the UK had begun to rise even before the restrictions on migrants from Romania or Bulgaria were lifted at the start of the year.”
She added: “The public broadly agrees that immigration is too high, but there are stark social divisions over the economic and cultural benefits of immigration.”
The research shows 54% of respondents who see immigration as good for the economy and 55% of those who see it is as culturally beneficial also want to see immigration reduced.
The survey also reveals divisions among political party supporters.
Some 52% of Conservatives believes that Britain’s cultural life is undermined by immigration, compared with 40% of Conservative supporters, and 20% of Lib Dem voters.
In the documentary, former Labour ministers reflect on their decision to open the doors to workers from Eastern Europe in 2004, when Poland and seven other countries joined the EU.
Jack Straw, foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006, said: “The predications were completely catastrophic. I mean they were wrong by a factor of ten. On immigration, it was bluntly a nightmare and it got more and more difficult.”
“We did get it wrong and I deeply regret it,” said Mr Straw. “I regret it because it undermines trust in government, if you’re that wrong.”
Nigel Farage told the documentary that he believed that fear of being labelled as a racist has stifled the debate on immigration.
He said: “They tried to rubbish us, they tried to say that anybody that dared to talk about this subject was necessarily a bad person and racist.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said this morning that the Prime Minister was “completely right” to stop migrants claiming benefits for the first three months after they arrive in the UK.
He said: “If you want to come and work here you can do that but there should be a period before which you can claim all benefits and it seems entirely reasonable to me that they should extend that to two years.
“Why should British taxpayers be paying the child benefit of people who may be working in Britain but whose children are living in Poland?”