Nigel Farage: Immigration will be the defining issue of this EU referendum campaign
When the referendum comes, the British people will finally have their chance to reject these open borders by saying No to the European Union
The results of Ipsos-MORI’s new poll are astounding - yet unsurprising. They describe the real concern that the majority of British people have for uncontrolled immigration: half of the respondents rank it as one of their biggest worries, compared with just over a quarter who said their greatest fear was the economy.
It is particularly interesting that this concern transcends political ideologies: both Labour and Conservative supporters admitted it was their number one issue, demonstrating the disconnect between the old parties’ base support and their elected representatives.
I still find it astonishing that we live in an age where the two biggest parties share the same policy on the defining issue of the time - they are both are committed to open borders with the European Union. You only have to look at the numbers to see the truth: in the 12 months to June 2005 under Tony Blair, net migration was at 320,000. Under David Cameron’s premiership, net migration in 2014 was 318,000. Different parties, different prime ministers: same undesirable outcome.
Mass immigration on this scale has never been something the British people wanted nor asked for. Part of the problem is that the numbers in which people are arriving has made integration virtually impossible. And huge pressure is being placed on public services. Just how can a government or local authority plan sensibly when the influxes in some areas are so huge? Two in five council areas in England now admit that they will not have enough primary school places by September 2016. The housing market has seen the deleterious effects too, with demand for stock rising hugely. Just to keep up with current population surges, a new house would have to be built every seven minutes.
So let me ask this question. Who are the real extremists here? People like me, who say that to give immigration a good name again, Britain needs both quality and quantity control? Or those who want to allow an unrestricted, uncontrolled flow of people to areas that simply cannot cope?
This isn’t just about what’s going on in the UK though. I believe that the reason immigration is more of a concern than ever before for the British people relates to what we see going on beyond our shores. We see the chaos in Calais, where thousands of migrants are risking their lives to get from France to Britain; we see refugees in their thousands risking life and limb as they cross the Mediterranean on ships sailing from Libya. And we see that the issue of open borders and mass immigration is no longer simply an issue of social problems and the impact on British workers, it is fast becoming one of national security.
This is because Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have warned that they intend to use the crisis to cause carnage in Europe. Under cover of the chaos, they want to send infiltrators into our midst. We’ve already heard from the family of Rafikhe Tayari, one of the alleged accomplices of Sousse beaches murderer Seifeddine Rezgui, who say that he has escaped to Libya and intends to come to Europe on one of the boats coming across the Med. Who knows where he is right now: still in Libya, somewhere in Europe, or even at Calais trying to enter the UK?
It is clear that in the forthcoming EU referendum the issue of border controls will dominate the debate. Particularly since the EU’s Common Asylum Policy has relaxed its criteria, allowing pretty much anyone who comes to Europe to stay. I tried to warn people of the coming trouble during the general election, but I was virtually ignored.
Now we are seeing the effects: Greece is in a state of chaos unable to cope, with a staggering 124,000 migrants arriving via boat this year alone, a 750 per cent increase from the same period the year before.
Germany meanwhile is revising its numbers upwards on an almost daily basis. The latest figure they are citing is of 800,000 asylum seekers and refugees entering their country this year alone.
It is this issue, like no other, that exposes how, because we are inside the European Union, we are utterly powerless to put our national interest first.
I believe that the British people have seen quite enough. I believe that they want an Australian-style immigration policy that allocates work permits to those our economy needs, that says no to those whose skills we do not need, and that gives an emphatic denial of entry to those we have any suspicion want to do us harm.
We have long been witness in Britain to the failed policy of the EU’s open borders, supported by the establishment politicians to the detriment of our nation. When the referendum comes, the British people will finally have their chance to reject these open borders by saying No to the European Union.
Nigel Farage is leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party