Richard North, 12/09/2004  

In a speech at the London UKIP Annual Dinner yesterday, mercifully unreported by any of the mainstream media, Robert Kilroy-Silk gave us the benefit of his thinking on immigration. His thesis was that we should limit immigration to 100,000 a year, withdraw from the Geneva Convention on Refugees and take control over our borders.

Stirring, populist stuff from our Robert, and his message certainly went down well with some of the London UKIPites, as it was intended to. Furthermore, the theme was calculated to pander to the broader sentiment of UKIP voters – many of whom, reluctant to commit their vote to the BNP, chose UKIP as the softer, anti-immigration option.

To make the distinction between his adopted party and the BNP, therefore, Kilroy carefully pointed out that:

We are not racist. We vehemently and vigorously reject all racist language and action. We will not tolerate any discrimination on the grounds of race - or colour or creed, or indeed age or sex. We will be oustpoken in condemning racism wherever and whenever it occurs. But the plain fact is that the government's immigration policy has lost both credibility and control. No-one believes the government's figures on immigration, work permits, new arrivals or asylum
Polls showed that 80 percent of the people, including 52 percent of the ethnic minorities, wanted to see tougher immigration controls, so we are not racist in wanting to keep out the immigrants… so there. The problem is “pressure on limited resources, not race”.

What is dismaying about the speech though is its superficial, one-dimensional tone, offering a fortress solution to a problem that is of international concern and begs for a creative solution. Shutting the doors, and retreating into the bunker is not it.

As we have pointed out elsewhere in this Blog the essential problem of economic migration is that, if people cannot satisfy their basic economic needs in their own countries, they will move out – if they can - and find some better. Yet, much of the reason why many less developed countries are unable to provide for the basic needs of their peoples is because of the predatory trade policies of the EU and other developed countries. The sugar regime – and the illegal dumping - is a case in point.

In short, one of the most effective and humane ways of dealing with the problem of immigration is to sort out trade policy – and with it, as my colleague so often points out, such as here, here and here, foreign aid. This more often than not breeds economic dependency and actually exacerbates the problem of migration.

Since both the issues of trade and aid are dominated by the EU, here was an opportunity for Kilroy to break out of the "little Englander" fortress mode and take a wider view of the problem, offering imaginative solutions such as genuine free trade with the LDCs. If he offered this balance of "carrot and stick" he would not perhaps have needed to proclaim quite so hotly his "non-racist" credentials. As it was, his strident declaimations could have been dismissed simply as a case of "he doth protest too much".

Altogether, it was an ill-judged speech, and an opportunity missed.

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