Opinion: 485 million, 26 million or 4,000? UKIP’s immigration confusion

Nigel Farage, Leader, UK Independence Party (UKIP)So, Mr Farage, which is it? In the debates with Nick Clegg, you claimed 485 million of our fellow Europeans could come to Britain. On your wretched billboards, you claimed 26 million are eyeing up our jobs. Now, on leaflets that are dropping through letterboxes, you claim 4,000 EU migrants are landing on our shores each week. These are very different numbers.

I guess the 485 million figure is simply the total number of people who could legally come to the UK. But how is this different from pointing out that the 64 million people who live in the UK are all perfectly free to move to, say, Totnes? Should Totnes Town Council leave the UK so it can impose border controls? Should National Rail blow up the railway line at Dawlish to slow their arrival? Should the Government impose restrictions on internal movement within the UK just in case? Of course not, because 64m people aren’t about to move to Totnes, even though they’re free to do so, just as 485 million Europeans are not going to come here to Britain. That leaves us with the figures of 26 million and 4,000. If 26 million people are coming for our jobs, why are an average of only 4,000 per week showing up? Some quick number-crunching tells me that, at that rate, it’ll take 6,500 weeks, or 125 years for them all to arrive.

But of course, in true UKIP fashion, that 4,000 figure isn’t quite as accurate as it might at first appear. UKIP based the 4,000 figure on this [pdf], from the Office for National Statistics: “209,000 [non-British] EU citizens immigrated in the year ending September 2013”. This is simply the number arriving however, and takes no account of the number leaving. That same document reveals that 78,000 non-British EU citizens left the UK, meaning the net figure was 131,000, or about 2,500 per week. By my calculation, that means it’ll take 10,400 weeks, or 200 years, for all those 26 million jobseekers to arrive.

Some respond that 2,500 per week is still 2,500 too many. This guy, for example. The problem for people with that worldview is that evidence suggests European migrants put way more into the system than they take out, billions of pounds more.

We shouldn’t be surprised. UKIP has form on this. Their claim that we pay £55 million a day to the EU has been fact-checked as wrong; their claim that 75% of our laws are made in Brussels has been fact-checked as wrong too.

One can only hope that actual facts might start to filter through, combating the nonsense put out by UKIP. And with every leaflet we deliver, every call we make, and every door we knock on, they will.

* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.

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40 Comments

  • Oh good – yet another article about UKIP, repeating a load of their propaganda for good measure.

    Nigel Farage must go down on his knees every night and thank God for the Lib Dems.

  • Giles Goodall 6th May '14 - 11:35am

    Very good piece Stuart, as this is far and away their headline message, it’s important to call Ukip out on this nonsense.

  • It all makes no difference whatsoever. The public has decided and they do not want us at the present time and in the present format. We have to change if not we may as well cease to exist after the next election.

  • Stuart Bonar 6th May '14 - 11:50am

    @Chris – Yes, because ignoring them for 20 years has worked really well at frustrating their advance

  • Thanks Stuart. It is also very important to point out that many British citizens benefit from free movement, going to live and / or work in other EU countries. As Liberal Democrats, I am sure we all welcome that freedom. I wonder how many Kippers currently live on the Costa del Sol for instance? It strikes me that Kippers (and Right wing Tories) are merely taking a neo – imperialist line on this, ie we do what we like, but when it comes to you, well, you do what you are told.

  • “@Chris – Yes, because ignoring them for 20 years has worked really well at frustrating their advance”

    “Something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done”?

    Wouldn’t it be rather more logical to assess whether “this” is working, rather than carrying on regardless?

  • Are you saying that there isn’t an immigration problem, because 80%+ of the public would disagree with you.

    If you are so blind to the reality that you spend 50% of your time debunking the ‘data’ of others, with the other 50 % of your time creatively manipulating ‘data’ to serve your own position. 3-4.2million lost jobs if we leave the EU…Only 7% of laws…etc

    If you really believe there is no problem, then you should go full blooded and campaign in the Euros, in the local elections and in the GE2015 for unlimited immigration.

    Nitpick if you want, if you think it will get you anywhere… It won’t!!

    You have already lost the argument on immigration and your precious EU, It will be interesting to see the 21014 Q1 immigration figures when they are released on the 22nd May the day of the EU election, although I have no doubt if it showed 250,000 arriving you would probably be happy with that, and just offset it against half a dozen financially independent Gran and Grandads retiring to Spain

  • Stuart Bonar 6th May '14 - 2:31pm

    @Giles and @Tim13 – thanks for the support
    @theakes – not entirely sure what you’re suggesting; if it’s that we’re out of favour with the public therefore we should all just give up and go home then it’s not a perspective I share
    @Raddiy – calm down, dear

  • Yorkshire Guidon 6th May '14 - 3:29pm

    @Raddiy – you are much better when you present a reasoned argument. You are starting to get shrill and silly now tbh

  • Richard Dean 6th May '14 - 3:31pm

    To say that “there’s an immigration problem” is meaningless. There are always problems with any human endeavour, for instance there are problems with the NHS, but that doesn’t mean we should abolish the NHS. Immigration over the years has been largely beneficial to the UK, and indeed even old Enoch Powell would agree – it was he who arranged large scale immigration from Commonwealth countries to fill skills shortages in the NHS when he was Minister of Health.

    People often cite the capital that immigrants bring and the investment they make in Britain, and the number of companies started by immigrants. It’s undoubtedly the case the immigrants compete with others for jobs, houses, and so on, but at the same time they provide the extra demand for goods and services that increases the size of markets and so makes companies hire more people – more jobs become available as a result of immigration. To the extent that companies then have a wider choice of potential employees, they can pick more good applicants, thereby making British industry more competitive abroad.

    So immigration isn’t a problem. There are some issues that need to be addressed to reduce some of the rough edges, that’s all. – Enoch Powell found that immigration was a solution for the NHS, and the more advanced, modern approach should be that immigration provides opportunities for everyone to win

  • Stuart Bonar 6th May '14 - 4:01pm

    @Chris – I noticed that the numbers UKIP use to generate public anger about immigration are (a) misleading and (b) contradictory. My piece points that out. As to your wider point, if an opponent to is using dodgy stats to provoke a public mood that is the antithesis of what we as a party stand for then I think it’s an idea to challenge them.
    @Richard Dean – I think you put your points well. It strikes me that if there’s pressure on housing and other infrastructure then it’s up to the Government to use the extra tax income EU migrants generate to invest in more housing and better infrastructure.

  • Charles Rothwell 6th May '14 - 5:05pm

    This is all pretty meaningless, as trying to argue facts with Kippers is pointless. They are beyond facts and beyond rational politics. (Their Portsmouth mini-Farage proudly announced on the Sunday lunchtime news on Radio 4 that they were “the anti-politics party” (while also, by the way, saying Clegg was their ‘best recruiting sergeant’). They have lumped all their hatreds (immigration, globalisation, gay marriage, smoking bans, failures and betrayals by “the political class”/”the Establishment” (with the People’s Revolt being led by the son of a Kent-based, privately educated ex-stockbroker who has sponged off the public purse for the last 15 years) and their own general sense of ‘being left behind’/’being sick of it’) into one dynamic whole, stuck “Europe/the EU” on it and are going with it until reaches whatever crescendo it does (as will also happen in France with Le Pen, the Netherlands with Willets etc). The people who need the kind of facts being cited here are not Liberal Democrats and certainly not Kippers (who will in an case ignore the facts, claim they are more Brussels-inspired ‘lies’ etc.), but the approximately one third of the British electorate who are simply not informed about the impact of the EU on the British economy and who have been left in the dark for far (far) too long (e.g would all the 400,000 British people employed in the UK by German-owned companies REALLY remain employed if the UK (or, more likely, England – Scotland and wales want none of this) started ripping up Single Market directives on quality, standards, operating procedures etc?) Clegg tried to get the message across in the debates, but just simply failed as he is such ‘damaged goods’, there is no way the kind of people who need to be reached are going to be by him (or Cameron or Milliband). In my view, what is needed is a strong body firmly rooted in BUSINESS, not politics, to make the case and the sooner, the better. (As regards Kippers going on (and on and on) about “surveys show that most people”, well, yes, at any one particular time in history and while demagogues and confidence tricksters are busy stirring up hatred and riding waves of dissatisfaction for their own ends and using any sticking means they can (Irish actors playing out of work English builders), this could well be so, but we (still) have a representative democracy (as in the days of Burke) and are not yet the kind of country which thinks governing should consist of a string of plebiscites on gay marriage, abortion, bringing back flogging and national service, capital punishment, euthanasia, whether women should be forced not to wear trousers by law (perhaps combined with capital punishment (?), as the KIpper donor helpfully pointed out that women could still be executed for wearing such garments ‘up to three hundred years ago’ etc. etc.)

  • >Their claim that we pay £55 million a day to the EU has been fact-checked as wrong

    Depends on what you use as your divisor… If you assume UKIP are using working days (~250) as opposed to calendar days (365) then the £55M figures isn’t so far out….

  • Stuart Bonar 6th May '14 - 6:51pm

    @Roland – the UK’s net contribution to the EU in 2013 was £8.624 billion. (source: European Union Finances 2013, HM Treasury). It’s an estimate because that figure was published towards the end of 2013, but let’s assume it’s right. Divided by 365 that’s £23.6m per day. Divided by 250, as you suggest, it’s £34.5m. That means that even if you divide only by working days you don’t even get two-thirds of the way to Ukip’s figure. So, I stand by my assertion that that Ukip’s figure can be fact-checked as wrong, an exaggeration, misleading.
    @Charles – I fear you may be right that the nation’s swing voters are not hanging on my every utterance, but maybe some will google the facts at some point and maybe, just maybe, a page like this one will appear in their results somewhere. I can hope.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th May '14 - 6:52pm

    “It is also very important to point out that many British citizens benefit from free movement, going to live and / or work in other EU countries.”
    Many such people go to live in France without learning to speak any French, Spain without learning to speak any Spanish etc. 2-way street. Doesn’t help their relations with the locals over there any more than immigrants to the UK not trying to speak English helps relations with the locals in the UK

  • @Stuart
    I based my quick calculation on the figure quoted in the article you referenced: “In 2013’s Annual Statement, the Treasury quotes a total contribution to the EU budget of £13,861 million.”

    I’m not defending either UKIP or the figures, only that maths can be made to mean many things unless you are precise.

  • “So, Mr Farage, which is it? In the debates with Nick Clegg, you claimed 485 million of our fellow Europeans could come to Britain. On your wretched billboards, you claimed 26 million are eyeing up our jobs. Now, on leaflets that are dropping through letterboxes, you claim 4,000 EU migrants are landing on our shores each week. These are very different numbers.”

    Phfffffffhhehehehehehe. Is this article a spoof ? I just love that deadpan: “These are very different numbers”. Maybe I can have a go too? Here is my effort:

    “So, the distance to the Sun is 93 million miles. The price of milk is 49p/pint. There are 31 days in the month. These are very different numbers.”

  • Richard Dean 7th May '14 - 2:16am

    @Tom Wilde

    Not surprisingly, your response is reminiscent of the psychological concept of denialism, in which mental health patients “choose to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth”. The uncomfortable truth in the present case is that Nigel Farage has been wholly inconsistent in his scaremongering, and voters are going to be seeing that more and more clearly as the campaigns develop.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denialism
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=denial

  • @Richard – “voters are going to be seeing that more and more clearly as the campaigns develop.”

    Interestingly, the only communication regarding the up-coming MEP elections I’ve had (as yet) is a leaflet from UKIP …

  • Nick Tregoning 7th May '14 - 8:47am

    @Roland – Me too.
    I suppose the idea is that you need to repeat untruths many times for them to gain credence.

  • Mark Seaman 7th May '14 - 11:47am

    The UKIP figures are indeed often ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ accurate, but I do not think that this article addresses the genuine issues regarding the current scale of economic migration, as per MigrationWatch’s website.
    http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefingPaper/document/294

  • John Roffey 7th May '14 - 1:50pm

    Liberal Democrats do seem to have a problem with democracy [do you remember – the will of the people?]. By all means wish to be a part of the EU, by all means want Britain to have an open door to anyone who wants to come here, but if you want to have significant support – in order to maintain a good presence at Westminster and the EU parliament – it is probably better to convince the majority of the wisdom of these desires before adopting them as firm policy.

    I am sure there are no L/Ds who would wish to force policies on the people, as a result of being in coalition, that very few wanted.

  • Non conformist Radical My experience – admittedly anecdotal – of expatriates in the places I have visited, and in the UK, is that a much greater proportion of non-British people make good attempts to speak English than do British expats with first languages in other countries.

  • Stuart Bonar 7th May '14 - 3:40pm

    @Roland: the £13.861bn figure is gross, so takes no account of what we get back. I use, I think fairly, a net figure. I think if one is taking only the gross figure and then dividing it only by working days then that’s misleading.
    @Tom Wilde: so, you’re saying that the honesty of UKIP’s posters telling people that 26,000,000 people are coming for their jobs is totally unrelated to the number of non-British EU migrants who are actually coming to Britain? That’s before we even get onto the lump of labour fallacy.
    @Ian Sanderson: I’ve had stuff from the Lib Dems (and it wasn’t even delivered by me!) and UKIP.
    @Mark Seaman: I wouldn’t trust anything from Migration Watch any more than I would trust something from UKIP.
    @John Roffey: every time there is a General Election the people get a chance to elect a UKIP Government, which would take us out of Europe. Let’s see if that is the will of the people in May 2015.
    @Nonconformistradical & @Tim13: if you want to point me towards any evidence about non-British EU migrants coming to live in Britain who do not know or at least learn the lingo then feel free to share.

  • John Roffey 7th May '14 - 4:50pm

    @ Stuart Bonar

    ‘@John Roffey: every time there is a General Election the people get a chance to elect a UKIP Government, which would take us out of Europe. Let’s see if that is the will of the people in May 2015.’

    Since it is the EU elections that are first up – perhaps it would be better to address your response to the immediate problem – or am I to assume that party members do not mind if they do not get a single MEP? [Ladbrooks are offering 5/1]

    From UKPolling: European voting intention figures both have UKIP narrowly ahead of Labour. YouGov/Sunday Times has CON 22%, LAB 28%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 29%, GREEN 8%. YouGov/Sun on Sunday has CON 23%, LAB 26%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 29%, GRN 7%. Note the Greens ahead of the Lib Dems in the Sunday Times poll – the first time we’ve seen that.

  • Stuart Bonar 7th May '14 - 6:06pm

    @John Roffey: fine, later this month we can compare the % of voters who cast a preference for parties that would prefer to stay in the EU with the parties, such as UKIP and the BNP, which believe in withdrawal. I know which side my money would be on.

  • John Roffey 7th May '14 - 6:28pm

    @ Stuart Bonar

    Based on that reasoning, because presently the majority want to stay in the EU – you will expect to see the Lib/Dems to take the largest share of the votes at the EU elections – because they have said they are determined to stay in whatever?

  • @Stuart Bonar – “the £13.861bn figure is gross, so takes no account of what we get back. I use, I think fairly, a net figure. I think if one is taking only the gross figure and then dividing it only by working days then that’s misleading.”

    No you are both being dishonest – UKIP for overstating and yourself for understating! The gross figure is what the UK Treasury actually committed to pay out in GBP, the net figure is the result of monies received which are variable depending upon how well the UK is able to gain funds (eg. regional aid etc.) and play with exchange rates. Obviously, with UKIP’s record their ability to get funds out of the EU, I suggest would be limited and hence the amount we get back would go down, so their figure isn’t so much an overstatement but an indication of what we could actually be paying if we decide to continue in the EU but not engage and look after UK interests.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th May '14 - 8:11pm

    @ Mark Seaman,
    How much can we trust Migration Watches figures?

    Jonathan Portes, the Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has taken them to task on their figures on a number of occasions.

  • Stuart Bonar 7th May '14 - 8:37pm

    @John Roffey: I suspect we’re not going to agree and there is only so much point in pingponging our views back and forth
    @Roland: I don’t think you’re right, but (a) I have shown my working in a way that UKIP haven’t and (b) UKIP’s figure is wrong whichever way you crunch the numbers
    @Jayne Mansfield: absolutely!

  • Richard Dean sets out the argument that immigrants benefit the UK. Some of these benefits are true but some are just displacements and it is displacement which is the major problem. When companies employ an immigrant rather than someone who isn’t an immigrant, that immigrate adds to the total demand in society, but if the non-immigrant had been employed instead they would increase total demand by the same amount. When an immigrant is employed sometimes a non-immigrant is not employed. This wouldn’t be a problem if the UK had full employment, but as this isn’t the case the immigrant could be displacing a non-immigrant into unemployment. An immigrant will need somewhere to live. When an immigrant rents somewhere this could result in a non-immigrant being displaced from renting that property. Also immigrants increase the demand for housing. This of course wouldn’t be a problem if there sufficient homes for everyone who wishes to rent one or buy one. It seems to me that the best way to remove the stresses caused by immigration would be to pursue full employment policies and build enough houses to remove the housing shortage.

  • @Stuart: I understand your reluctance, however by taking the gross figure we can rightly claim to get something back for our money and also by being a net contributor show that we are a key funding member of the EU, which should (if we play our cards well) give us some influence. The problem with only stating our net contribution, you are effectively dismising what we get back from the EU and focusing only on the contribution the UK makes to the EU, which I suggest is on it’s own a harder sell, particularly as it is close to the ticket price for a new nuclear power station [Aside: which makes me wonder whether the agreement signed with EDF et al includes an EU membership clause – such that whilst UK is in the EU some risk is with EDF et al, whilst if the UK were to leave then some risk is transferred to the UK government, a key area would be around the currency used for payments.].

  • Stuart Bonar 8th May '14 - 12:18am

    @Roland: What we get back is peace, the ability to negotiate better trade deals as a stronger bloc rather than a single nation, rights to live, work and retire in 27 other nations, a better chance of a job because our businesses can trade more easier in the EU marketplace of 500 million citizens, the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having helped secure a democratic future for eastern Europeans after decades of Soviet repression (compare the fate of the EU countries in the east to the ones left outside, such as Belarus or Ukraine), opportunities for young people to study at universities across the Continent through the Erasmus programme, cheaper mobile phone calls (with roaming charges cut and shortly to be abolished), and loads of other stuff too, And none of that is anything to do with the difference between our gross and net contributions. But (a) I don’t think I’ll convince you whatever I say and (b) none of this is any longer relevant to my article.

    In the nicest possible way I probably won’t reply again as otherwise this pingpong will just go on until the end of time. And – genuinely – I mean that nicely.

  • Richard Dean 8th May '14 - 1:05am

    @Stuart Bonar
    Has anyone tried to value the undoubtedly valuable benefits you mention? It would likely be a speculative exercise, but no more speculative than UKIP’s idea that we’d be better of out.

    @Amalric
    Those examples are not displacements at all. If an immigrant comes here, the immigrant adds demand on the demand side of any equation, and supply on the supply side. The skill is to match the two additions on the two sides, at least in vital areas. Governments with their heads in sand are to blame, not immigrants, when this matching doesn’t happen.

  • @ Richard Dean – It is the creation of a new job and its being filled that creates the extra demand (and the creation of the benefit of the job to the employer, which is likely to increase supply of the thing provided by the employer). Therefore the extra demand is only created by the payment of the wage and the employed person spending it. It does not matter if the person is an immigrant or not. In the UK there are not enough jobs for everyone and therefore to employ an immigrant may mean that a non-immigrant who was the second choice didn’t get the job and this is what I am calling displacement. It is this displacement that is a stress caused by immigration and my solution is for the government to increase demand in the economy so more non-immigrants are employed so there are enough jobs in the UK for everyone, then people shouldn’t be able to say that immigrants are taking jobs that could be done by non-immigrants because there wouldn’t be a pool of non-immigrants to do the jobs.

    With regard to housing you are correct that the immigrant creates extra demand for housing and the government has done nothing to ensure this demand is met. This problem is made worse by there being a housing shortage to meet domestic demand. The solution is to build more houses.

    I believe that immigration wouldn’t be a major political issue if we had full employment and there was no housing shortage and the number of houses being built once there is no housing shortage kept up with the increase in demand. To ignore the displacements cause by immigration will mean we will not deal with the public’s concerns over immigration and we leave them going for the easier solution of just calling for net immigration to stop, which we don’t want to happen.

  • Michael Berrisford 9th May '14 - 8:21am

    Well sort of Stuart – but I bet you have used the discredited ‘3m jobs at risk’ formula in argument haven’t you… Because that statement is precisely parallel logically to the ‘485m could come to Britain’ formula. Both have a certain truth which can’t be argued with (although their precise meaning can only be decoded by reading the words very carefully) – but both are designed to convey an idea which is not true – we all know that 485m people are not going to come to Britain – and we al know that 3m jobs are not going to be lost if UK leaves the EC. So if you want to give one statement the red card then be fair and give the other statement the red card too.

  • @ Stuart

    @Chris – I noticed that the numbers UKIP use to generate public anger about immigration are (a) misleading and (b) contradictory. My piece points that out. As to your wider point, if an opponent to is using dodgy stats to provoke a public mood that is the antithesis of what we as a party stand for then I think it’s an idea to challenge them.

    UKIP are not using misleading numbers to “generate public anger about immigration.” What would be the point? No-one trusts any numbers on the subject whatsoever.

    They are channelling an already extant outrage over the transformation of our country by mass uncontrolled immigration.

    The country is not going to accept it any longer, however. When are you people going to realise this?????

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