Noel Edmonds of TV fame and one of the stars of the National Lottery's advertising campaign, is on the front page of the Daily Express declaring that ‘Britain is full’.
The host of the TV show, ‘Deal or No Deal’ apparently missed an important business deal when he got caught in grid-locked traffic and had to abandon a journey from his home in Gloucestershire to Bath.
Subsequently Mr Edmonds Tweeted, “Just tried to get somewhere. Allowed loads of time but abandoned journey. Am I alone in feeling Britain is full?”
Reported the UKIP-supporting Daily Express today, “His comments struck a chord with many who think Britain is ‘full up and fed up’ thanks to years of uncontrolled immigration.”
Asked if he felt Britain was full Mr Edmonds replied, “Obviously I do. It feels as if it is full. My question is, ‘am I alone?’ If I am being sensible I will wait to get the picture.”
Responded businessman and ex-Dragons Den investor, Duncan Bannatyne, “No, you are not alone Noel.”
Added the Daily Express, “Mr Edmonds’ comments echo the thoughts of Ukip leader Nigel Farage who last year blamed high levels of immigration and the state of the M4 for missing a crunch event in Wales.”
And the clincher quote from Mr Farage himself, “Of course, the only way we can bring numbers down to sensible levels is to leave the European Union.”
I am not sure how Noel Edmonds feels about the Daily Express using his comments to support UKIP, but Mr Edmonds did say he would “wait to get the picture.” So, let’s give him the picture on whether Britain is full or not.
Actually Britain isn’t full. Fly over the country and you’ll see huge swathes of uninhabited open countryside.
Take England, for example (where most Eurosceptics live). The proportion of built-up areas was recently calculated by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, in the biggest survey of Britain’s land-use ever conducted.
It showed that only 2.27% of England’s landscape is built on, and elsewhere in the UK, less than 1% is built on.
It’s clear from the evidence that only a tiny fraction of Britain is concreted over.
So why do some people have an impression that Britain is full? It’s because 80% of us live in cities and towns. That’s what people do; it’s efficient and it’s where people choose to live. Australia also has huge amounts of space, but most of the population in Australia still choose to live in the cities.
Whether Britain had foreign citizens living here or not, people would still live in cities rather than the countryside. It’s daft and disingenuous to blame immigrants for traffic jams.
There is also a lot of fear generated about how Britain’s population is going to explode in the near future. Most past predictions of the country’s population have been totally wrong, however.
For example, back in the 1960s it was predicted that Britain’s population (then about 53 million) would dramatically expand to 80 million by the turn of the century.
Consequently, regional strategies were developed, including the expansion of towns such as Swindon, Milton Keynes and Northampton, to accommodate the anticipated baby boom.
But the population explosion didn’t happen – the population of Britain in 2000 was still under 60 million.
The contraceptive pill was developed and Britain’s birth rate went down – one of the reasons, actually, that the country has desperately needed immigrants to fill our nation’s chronic skills gap and shortage of young workers.
The Daily Express also claims that our membership of the European Union is to blame for Britain’s rising population. But that isn’t true, either.
One of the benefits of EU membership is that all EU citizens enjoy European citizenship in addition to their nationality. It means that EU citizens can go and live, work, study or retire in any other EU country (so long as they have the means to do so).
That simply wasn’t so easy or possible before we joined the EU, when work and residency permits were required and could not be guaranteed.
But EU citizenship works both ways. Britain is Europe's number one exporter of people to the rest of Europe. Britons make more use of ‘free movement of people’ than any other EU nationality.
(In fact Noel Edmonds lives much of the year in a mansion on the French Riviera - thanks, of course, to the benefits of the European Union).
About the same number of Britons now live in other parts of the EU as the number of EU citizens now living in Britain.
So if all Britons living in the rest of Europe now came home, and all citizens from the rest of Europe living in Britain now went home, the population of this country would be about the same as it is now.
But what would such a swap achieve? Nothing worthwile, and certainly no overall net reduction in the numbers of people living here.
The Daily Express also claimed today that “uncontrolled immigration” was the cause of Britain being overcrowded. That’s also another myth. Immigration from the EU is controlled – by the jobs market.
Britain has more job vacancies than can be filled by the native workforce. That, in a nutshell, is why we need migrants. If we had fewer job vacancies, we’d have fewer migrants coming here.
Our jobs market is the controller of free movement of people here from Europe. It’s as simple as that. When, for example, we had the economic crash back in 2007, new arrivals from eastern Europe halved.
Most migrants here are in gainful employment, and making a massive net contribution to Britain’s treasury and overall economy. Only 2.2% of welfare claimants in Britain are EU migrants – just 114,000 out of a total of just over 5 million benefit claimants.
As for migration here from outside of Europe, that can be and already is controlled by an Australian-style points system.
The billions of pounds (net) that migrants are contributing to the country should, of course, be used to help build more houses, schools, hospitals and better transportation.
But insufficient houses, schools, hospitals and transportation isn’t the fault of immigrants; it’s the fault of our political masters for not investing enough in the country’s infrastructure.
So Mr Noel Edmonds, I hope that puts you in the picture. No, Britain isn’t full-up. On the contrary, people here are Britain’s most valuable and vital asset. We should cherish them, and not claim we have too many.
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#NoelEdmonds says #Britain's full but waits 'to get the picture’. My article gives him that: https://t.co/LjqyIs8vWU pic.twitter.com/S1gHxXMrpu— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) January 14, 2016