27 May 2014

Anti immigration parties have fulfilled predictions of popular support in the European elections. Although the turnout was lower than in previous polls, voting for UKIP in Britain, the National Front in France and the Danish People’s Party was particularly notable. With only minority support for main stream parties that favour the union, euro sceptics seem to be the winners.  For the first time since 1973 when the Eurobarometer was set up to measure public sentiment, there is no longer a sizable majority of Europeans believing that membership of the EU is a “good thing”.

Political parties in Europe – and possibly New Zealand also  – may need to consider the thesis advanced by Paul Collier in his 2013 book Exodus. He argued that there is an obligation on countries which have accepted large numbers of migrants to determine how much diversity they want and how policies should be managed to achieve that outcome. He thinks the need is to develop a political consensus on the ideal mix of people and cultures and set up immigration controls to achieve that mix.

A Sky News survey in the UK last year asked about the type of person who was more acceptable than others to live and work in Britain. Respondents were sympathetic to immigration from the Old Commonwealth, with some preference for Western Europeans and Americans. Eastern Europeans and people from the New Commonwealth were marginally more acceptable than the largely unfavoured regions of South America, Africa and Asia.

The preference also was for professionally qualified migrants rather than manual workers, the unskilled –or retired people. More respondents in lower socio economic groups thought immigration affected their employment opportunities and pay rates, than those with professional qualifications. More than two thirds however wanted an end to immigration and expected “drastic action” by the British Government to achieve  that.