‘Too late for UK to stop Romanians and Bulgarians immigration influx’

Published time: June 09, 2013 17:43

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Following the Woolwich murder, the UK again saw a sharp rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. Though London has long grown into a majority minority city, Britain has yet to become a successful multicultural society, analyst David Goodhart told RT.

The multicultural and multi-faith London was shaken to its core
when 25-year-old Lee Rigby was brutally killed and beheaded in
late May in broad daylight by two people shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The incident saw anti-Muslim sentiments grow in the British
capital, with the English Defence League (EDL) laying the blame
for the Woolwich murder on Islam and staging a protest in London.

Another European capital has also seen a recent rise in ethnic
tensions, with clashes in Stockholm raging for days between
police and themostly immigrant population.

These recent developments echo statements by top EU politicians
like Angela Merkel and David Cameron on how multiculturalist
policies have failed, though no alternative has been offered so

The next immigration challenge the British face is dealing with
Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants, who can easily migrate to the
country next year after restrictions are lifted on these two EU
members, who joined the union in 2007.

RT spoke with David Goodhart, the director of the nonpartisan
think tank Demos and the author of ‘The British Dream,’
which looks at postwar multiculturalism, national identity and
immigration in the UK

RT: In the book you make the case that liberal
immigration is undermining the bonds that hold Britain together.
Can you elaborate on that for us? How so? Why did you write a
book on that?

David Goodhart: Well, it is trying to look at the
historical, economic, social arguments around immigration. And so
it’s a huge, controversial, fascinating subject. I’m looking at
the postwar period and how it’s affected the British society. I
try to look at it as objectively as possible and look at the
success stories and the failures. Not only from the point of view
of people coming here, but also from the people who are already
here. And we tend not to look at immigration from the point of
view of how it’s affecting the already-existing communities in

RT: As you say yourself, this is a very controversial
topic. Why do you think this is such a divisive issue,
particularly in Britain?

DH: I don’t think it is any more divisive than it is in
any other place. I mean the people overwhelmingly are not in
favor of large-scale immigration. Throughout history that has
been true and that remains true even in our societies today,
which are on the whole much more liberal, much more tolerant with
much less racial discrimination. People still have a bias in
favor of the familiar. It always has been and it always will be.
So, it’s not particularly controversial here at the moment I
think. It has become politically very sensitive here. The outcome
of the next general election in Britain in 2015 could well hang
on the number of people who come here when our labor market is
fully opened to them from Romania and Bulgaria at the beginning
of the next year.

AFP Photo / Hugo Philpott

RT: Which political parties if any do you think are
actually on point with this issue right now?

DH: One of the big stories of British politics in the last
generation is the gap, the difference between left and right has
narrowed, but the gap between the whole of the political class
and the voter has widened. And immigration is sort of emblem of
that widening. It applies to other areas too, like welfare,
Europe. And these are issues that Labour in particular is very
sensitive on, rather exposed on. But the instinct and intuition
of the MPs is often a mile away from the ordinary voter. If
anything, Conservatives tend to be closer to the ordinary voter
on these issues. 

RT: You titled your book ‘The British Dream.’ What
exactly do you mean by that? What is the British dream?

DH: This is obviously borrowed from the idea of the
American dream. The idea that if you want to be a successful, an
open multiracial society, you need to tell yourself stories of
that. You need to tell yourself stories about good immigration,
about successful minority people, who are contributing to
Britain, not damaging the interests of the people who are already
here. And we do have those stories, we indeed have more of them
than America, which is full of extremes and remains a very
racially divided and organized, and very violent society.

And I don’t think we want to go down that road. So, the paradox
is we need to borrow some of the American language and the easy
talk about patriotism. American nationalism manages to include
almost all people that go to America. We need to borrow some of
that language in order to avoid American outcomes.

RT: You particularly seem to pinpoint that, in your
opinion, integrating poorer nationalities into richer society
doesn’t necessarily ensure a richer life. Critics would say that
that overlooks the fact that integration obviously provides
greater security. And this is sort of a backbone of our welfare
state. What would you say to them?

DH: Of course, if people are coming from poorer countries,
they usually become richer and more secure. But nobody can
reasonably start from the point of view of the world as a whole.
Well, some people do. There are lots of people in the academic
world, some people on the cosmopolitan left of politics, people
who I call the ‘global village-ists.’ We are not a global
village. We as human beings are generally more particularists.
Our allegiances sort of flow out from family and friends to
towns, to nations, to the whole world, not the other way around.
And it doesn’t make sense if you believe in the nation-state,
which I do.

I think without nation-states the world would be a ghastly place,
it would be like ‘1984.’ Democracy requires relatively
small manageable units of people, in which people speak the same
language and understand each other. The world would really be a
terrible place without nation-states I think. Nation-states
remain the foundation of most of most of the political goods in
the world. But if you can have nation-states, you have to put the
interests of fellow citizens first, otherwise what’s the point in
being a national citizen? If you find your rights are overridden
by the rights of somebody with whom you feel no allegiance from a
distant part of the world?

RT: What are your thoughts on the labor market being
opened up to Romanians and Bulgarians?

DH: It’s hard to stop it now. We are still part of the
European Union. This was written in the rules way back in 1957,
it’s part of the treaty of Rome, it’s free movement. I think it’s
being wrongly interpreted in the sense that was never intended in
1957 that the European Union should be an economic space which
included countries and groups of countries with average standards
of living one-fifth or one-quarter of rich countries like
Britain. And free movement in that context is completely
different to free movement as it is in practice happened between
1957 and the early 2000s. Hardly anybody lived permanently in
another European state. I think it was not 0.1 percent of the
population who in 2000 lived permanently in another EU state.

RT: Do you see that as part of the problem, that as we
are dealing with the immigration issue here in Britain, we are
also having to balance with our commitment to the EU?

DH: The big negative shock particularly for the poor
people in Britain came with the opening for East Europeans —
Romania and Bulgaria issues are a continuation of that, a sort of
late phase of the 2004 opening. So, it’s too late to stop it. You
can try to demagnetize the country as much as possible. And
Britain is a very attractive place to come for a number of
reasons. Partly it is because of the English language, partly
because we are a pretty tolerant country where there are lots of
minority groups already.

There are already 200,000 people here from Romania and Bulgaria
who’ve come under various temporary work schemes. How do you
prevent the big increase is sort of technical question. We simply
won’t know. I think actually not that many people will come. Like
in 2004, all of the other countries are opening up at the same
time. Many Romanians and Bulgarians have closer connections to
other richer EU states. It’s been sort of ugly, all of this
moaning about Romanians and Bulgarians, when actually all of the
hostile publicity may have put people off coming. 

AFP Photo / Sinead Lynch

RT: What would you want people to wake up to when it
comes to immigration?

DH: London is a great multicultural city. But London has
experienced a huge amount of so-called ‘white flight.’
Lower-income people mainly in the outer suburbs leaving London
because they think it’s changed too fast for them. And that does
include the change in ethnic composition of the place where they
live. And I think you can’t say London is a successful city, as
between 2001 and 2011, 620,000 white British people left the
capital, which is why now London is a majority minority city.
Quite unexpected.

None of the academics picked that up because they weren’t
watching the outflow. It’s easy enough to track the inflow. But
they don’t live in the suburbs, where this was happening. And I
think we do have to worry about that, if we want a balanced
society. On integration people have conflicting intuitions. On
the whole people want to live among people roughly like them.
That can evolve over time and become broader. But we also think
that a healthy society is one where there is a lot of
communication and contact across ethnic and social boundaries.
And we are not seeing enough of that in Britain. And we do have,
I think an integration problem. 

RT: Do you think that can be just an issue of time and

DH: It is partly. And you can see that already with the
more successful groups in the suburbs of northwest London, where
there are lots of British Hindu Indians professionals living in
the same suburbs as their white counterparts. But then there are
certain groups that are less successful and are not integrating
so fast. They may be just a generation or two behind. And that’s
the optimistic story and may be true. But even for them I think
it wouldn’t harm to speed it up with integration.

RT: When it comes to how Britain is handling the issue
of immigration in particular, how do you view our relationship
with the EU, as contributing or not to that?

DH: Part of the point of the Euro was to disperse German
power and to prevent the rise of nationalism in Europe, and it’s
done precisely the opposite on both fronts. We now have serious
national resentments particularly in countries like Greece that
have had policies imposed on them by Brussels and Berlin. And the
way that the Euro has developed is also giving all power in
Europe essentially to the German Chancellor. And David Cameron in
his speech a couple of months ago on Europe declared there would
be a referendum a couple of years after the next election. He’s
further reinforced that.

And he has handed Britain’s destiny in Europe to Angela Merkel by
saying we are going to renegotiate terms of Britain’s membership
in EU, after which I will present these new terms to the British
electorate and I hope that they will approve them and we will
stay in the European Union, but who will decide whether we get
what we want and anything that’s presentable as some kind of
victory to the electorate, it must be Angela Merkel or whoever
the German Chancellor in 2017.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

This article originally appeared on: RT