One of the complaints made about immigrants is that they put pressure on public services.
It is easy to see how that thought arises. You go to the doctor. Ahead of you in the queue are two Poles and a Latvian. If they were not there, you would not have to wait.
Or you take your child to school. The playground sounds to voices from all over Europe. Surely, when the school is struggling with budget cuts that is the last thing it needs.
And so well-intentioned political parties and think tanks call for a new Migration Impact Fund to help communities that have experienced recent immigration.
Perhaps rather less well-intentioned in November 2016 the government set up the Controlling Migration Fund. One limb is meant to cut illegal immigration.
The other is to help local authorities affected by immigration to provide local services. The government has provided £100 million for that over four years. The fund’s prospectus notes that local authorities have £200 billion to spend on public services.
All money is welcome, but how can £100 million really help?
It can’t and it does not have to.
In broad terms, EU citizens pay as much in taxes as they receive in public services. So the money is there at a national level.
It is also there at a local level. Schools, GPs, clinical commissioning groups (which fund hospitals), police and local authorities are funded in part on formulae based on weighted capitation.
Put simply, when a child goes to school he or she comes with a cheque – whether the child is British or an immigrant. And local authority budgets are broadly based to provide a range of general and specific services.
No budgeting system perfectly matches needs and resources. But in broad terms: more immigrants, more money for local services. The money for schools and NHS is based on an annual patient/ pupil census, so the effect of data lags should be manageable.
So calls for a Migration Impact Fund miss the mark. What they do is validate the belief that immigrants are to blame for problems in public services.
We should not say anything that validates mistaken beliefs, not even to show that we are listening. Rather, we should accept that opposition to immigration is values-driven, even if it is presented as being based on economics.
To tackle it we have to present a values-based argument, as shown by Birkbeck College’s Eric Kaufman. The one that works best is to point out how immigrants assimilate.
by Michael Romberg | 31.01.2017
This article is based on the following report by Michael Romberg of the Campaign for the Real Referendum – on the Terms of Brexit
Edited by Hugo Dixon
From time to time we'll share exclusive interview clips (including never-seen-before footage), the most incisive blog posts and the most interesting dispatches from our event organisers as they take the europe debate to the furthest, biggest, smallest, weirdest, most unusual places around europe and beyond.