EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Towards a Responsible Post-Brexit Immigration System
DATE: 1:00pm – 2:00pm, 22nd August 2019
VENUE: Millbank Tower
SPEAKER: Professor Eric Kaufmann
EVENT CHAIR: Dr. Rakib Ehsan
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: So ladies and gentlemen, if we could make a start for today’s event. Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for joining us here at Henry Jackson Society for this event, Towards a Responsible Post-Brexit Immigration System. I’m Dr. Rakib Ehsan. I’m a research fellow here at Henry Jackson Society and I sit in two different centres: the centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism, and the Centre on Social and Political Risk. So, it’s widely agreed that both within the academic and political realm that immigration-related concerns, including those associated with the EU freedom of movement principle, fed into the Leave result delivered back in June 2016. With the UK scheduled to withdraw from the European Union on October 31st, our attention today turns to how the UK’s immigration system could look like in the post-Brexit context. This subject gives rise to a number of interesting questions. What skills and qualifications should be prioritised under such a system? Should it entail a closer relationship, a closer travel arrangement with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand? And should our understanding of the social and economic integration of various ethnic minority groups in the UK inform the design of a future post-Brexit immigration system? To help us move forward in addressing some of these questions, we are delighted to host our guest speaker for today, Professor Eric Kaufmann. Professor Kaufmann is a Professor and Assistant Dean of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, and he’s author of a number of high-profile books, firstly being Whiteshift: Immigration, Populism and the Future of White Majorities, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth, The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, and The Orange Order. He writes a report for think tank Demos entitled Changing Places: mapping the white British response to ethnic change. He is co-editor, among others, of Political Demography and editor of Rethinking Ethnicity: Majority Groups and Dominant Minorities. An editor of the journal Nations and Nationalism, he has written for Newsweek International, Foreign Affairs, New Statesman and Prospect magazines and his work has been covered in major newspapers and magazines in the UK and US for the past 12 years. So without further ado, Professor Eric Kaufmann.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Thanks Rakib. Not sure I can fill those shoes, but anyway. So yeah, I’m going to basically talk to you, talk you through a lot of survey data analysis and experimental evidence which would suggest in my view that a lot of the current thinking on what drives immigration attitudes and where UK immigration policy should go, are in some ways flawed, and we’ll see if you agree with me. I just want to start out by talking about the question of why people either support higher numbers or lower numbers of immigrants coming into a country. What tends to be associated with immigration attitudes? What drives immigration opinion? We’ll then look at the question of why has this question become more prominent recently, the connection to populist right voting including the Brexit vote, and then we’ll look at the question of what happens after Brexit.
The first thing I want to say is that, attitudes to immigration are not primarily driven by economic considerations. That is actually a consensus view in the academic literature. How you view immigration has very little to do with your income, whether you’ve lost your job, your class, and so on. Your personal material economic circumstances are not a major driver of immigration attitudes. Instead what I would argue, and others would argue, is that psychological dispositions and cultural values, deeply held values, which in many cases cut across the left right spectrum, what we might call the open closed or conservative liberal dimension, is far more important in telling us who tends to want less immigration and who tends to want more immigration. Here what you see is a – this is from the British election studies of 2015 to 18 – you see a very strong correlation between views on death penalty and views on immigration. If you strongly disagree with the death penalty, on average you’re happy with current levels of immigration. I’m sorry this pointer isn’t working. But if you strongly agree with the death penalty, then you are in the reduce immigration a lot category. Your income levels here, illustrated by the coloured bars, have almost no effect on your views on immigration. So view on death penalty heavily correlated with views on immigration, and therefore not surprisingly by the way heavily correlated with Brexit vote. So something like view on death penalty – why is that the case? It’s connected again to the psychological dispositions. For example, is your work-space tidy or messy? You might think that has nothing to do with immigration attitudes. In fact, it has a very important correlation with immigration attitudes. People who say that they’re in favour of more immigration, it’s a rough split between saying their work-space is messy and disorganised or neat and tidy. People who say immigration should be reduced a lot, over 2 to 1 tidy. So now, I’m not saying that’s the only factor here. But these deep-seated psychological dispositions, there’s a whole literature on this. Very important to explaining views on immigration. This is also connected to wider ideological dispositions. So for example – this is from YouGov data – if you say, ‘I believe both genders should be equal and would use the term feminist to describe myself’, well, amongst those who want much higher immigration or quite a bit more immigration, roughly 2/3 would describe themselves as feminist amongst those who want much tighter restrictions, which is about half the sample, only about 8 and a half percent. There’s a link between these different values dimensions, cultural values dimensions, and immigration attitudes.
Okay, I’m going to skip this. And of course as we probably know, there’s a very strong link between those immigration attitudes and the Brexit vote. The number one driver of the Brexit vote was immigration attitudes, not a lot of these other things which people have said afterwards, like sovereignty etc… Immigration attitudes, so here… if you want many more immigrants, the chances of you voting Leave – this is from the British election study – the chances of you having voted to leave the European Union are about 0. If you say many fewer immigrants, your chances are about 80% or slightly above. Income bands here, whether you’re earning less than 15,000 per year up to over 60,000, there is a slight difference. So poorer people yes, were more likely to vote Leave. But it’s no more than 10-15 points compared to 80-point difference on immigration attitudes. So it’s just much less important. So immigration attitudes underlain by these cultural values dispositions and populist right voting, including I would put the Brexit phenomenon in that category, are heavily underlined by immigration attitudes.
Then the question becomes, well why now? Why are we talking about this so much now? Not only in Britain, but in the US, in Europe etc… And a lot of this has to do with numbers. So numbers actually do matter. They’re not the only thing. I’m not going to say they are. There’s obviously a lot of other things going on in politics. But let’s take Britain as an example. This is a series from Ipsos MORI, starts in June of 1984, and goes through to, in this case, September 2014. But what you see actually is this grey number is net migration. It starts to uptick in 1997 when the Labour government of Tony Blair comes into power from about 50,000…150,000 reaches 300,000, and eventually under the Cameron government goes up to 330,000. And along with that, the number of people who say immigration is one of the top two issues facing the country, the percentage of people who say that begins to rise also in 1997, and it tracks at a rough correlation of about 0.7 this net migration figure. So this jagged line and the grey line are kind of moving together. That pattern, a paper by Andrew Geddes and James Dennison, shows that in 9 out of 10 West European countries between 2005 and 2016 the same pattern, there was a significant relationship between numbers. Salience of immigration – that is the number of people saying, this is not immigration attitudes. So attitudes to immigration which are connected to values and ideology don’t change much with numbers. What changes is the people who are already anti-immigration. Instead of immigration being their number 5, 6 issue after healthcare and the economy, it rises up to become their number 1, 2 issue. So it’s the salience, which is a different concept from ‘do you want less or more immigrants’. It’s amongst those who want less immigration rises. So amongst those who voted Leave, 40%, 4 in 10 Leave voters said immigration was the number 1 issue facing Britain. Compared to only about 5% percent of Remain voters. That’s the big difference, and if you read Clarke, Whiteley and Goodwin’s book on Brexit, they’ve done this with other data which shows pretty much the same thing. So we can’t underestimate the key role of immigration in the Brexit vote, and so the question is looking forward and beyond Brexit. Is government policy going to deal with the anxieties that were driving that Leave vote or not? And this is just showing you the similar patterns in Europe. You can see here, this is immigration into the European Union…starts to rise in 2013-14 to a peak of the migrant crisis, and then drops. Eurobarometer data… main concern of European Union citizens, immigration rises alongside that 2013-4 to a peak in 2015. So that’s just kind of a… showing this isn’t just a British pattern. And not to get into the fine detail… this is Dennison and Geddes, and they show this relationship between that salience measure. Immigration is one of the top issues facing the country and support for the main populist right party in a country. And again, 9 out of 10 West European countries, we see that relationship. They, by the way, have just published another paper on this getting into more detail and fancier statistical methods to show that correlation.
Okay, what about the situation after Brexit? And here I want to draw on some experimental work that I’ve done where we sort of asked people about different scenarios, and we look at their responses to those different scenarios. This comes from a survey in late 2017, sponsored by Policy Exchange and Birckbeck. It’s a YouGov survey. So, here’s the question. It says the government is considering its options for Britain’s immigration policy after Brexit. Currently Britain has net migration of 275,000 a year. We know it’s… I think the latest report was 230,000. But at this time it was 275, of which about half is European. After Brexit, European migration is expected to decline. And so we have two options on the table to deal with this question post-Brexit. So these are the two options that people saw. Sorry, I should clarify. The way these survey experiments work is you break people into different groups. One group sees one option, another group sees another option. One group saw…well, essentially, people were asked this question. Increased skilled migration from outside Europe, keeping net migration at 275. So essentially what that’s saying is, after Brexit, the flow of people from Europe is going to drop, and so we’re going to make up that difference by increasing immigration from other parts of the world. What that’s going to do is it’s going to increase the number of skilled people entering the country, assuming that people from outside Europe are selected, and therefore more skilled than people coming from Europe. And so the skilled share is going to increase from 40 to 50 percent. So under option 1, immigration stays the same, but the skill level goes up. So if we believe that skills is what people really care about, they’re going to be satisfied with that option. If we think numbers are what people care about, that’s not going to make a big difference. The second option however is a decrease option. So instead of increasing skilled immigration, we’re going to decrease immigration from outside Europe. Now because immigration from Europe is decreasing, if we decrease the immigration outside Europe, that’s really going to drop the numbers. So we say decrease net migration from 275,000 to 125,000. 125,000 is roughly where the average British person wants the numbers. So what we’re saying is 275 dropping to 125, but if you do that, the skill share of the immigrant flow is going to drop. In this experiment, we’re dropping the proportion of skilled immigrants from 40 to 20. That’s probably a bigger drop than what would happen, but we wanted to test the impact of having a less skilled immigration flow but a decrease in numbers against relatively high numbers with an increase in skill. It turns out that roughly people split 50-50 between these two options – between maintaining the current numbers but increasing skill share, and dropping the current numbers but losing skill share.
But now I mentioned that one of the key underlying drivers of immigration attitudes are cultural values, and in my book Whiteshift, I talk about these as being heavily related to themes of ethno-cultural change. Ethno-cultural change, at least in this survey data when we’re doing modelling of association, seems to come out very strongly as a predictor of a desire to reduce immigration. And so what we want to now test is, okay is this really a conversation about skills? Is that what people are concerned about, or is ethno-cultural change actually a very important factor? And so what we did here was to change these options. Notice what happens here to these two options. So this is the way the question was asked. An entirely separate group of people saw the question this way. Increased skilled immigration, keeping the net figure at 275. As a result, the white British share of the UK population declines from 80% today to 58% in 2060, which is approximately what the projections would show. Now if you decrease immigration, lowering net migration to 125,000, there’s still going to be a lot of ethnic change because that’s baked into the system due to age structure. It’s already going to happen to a large extent. But it’s not going to be quite as dramatic. It’ll go from 80% today to 65%. Not a massive difference – 58 versus 65 in 2060. Are people really going to be sensitive to just a few percentage points of change? Turns out they are. Massively so. So once you introduce the question of ethnic change into the survey experiment, when you have no mention of ethnic change, it’s roughly 50-50 between keeping numbers as they are with a higher skill share and dropping the numbers with a lower skill share. Once you mention ethnic change, people move over 20 points in favour of lower numbers. Even if it means lower skill share. Considerably lower skill share. So I think it shows… this actually fits quite well with what we see in the survey data that these cultural values and concerns are really what drive immigration opinion and therefore if you actually maintain a system of high immigration, even if the skill level goes up, if that rate of ethnic change which is going to be picked up over time, I would argue that that is not going to allay the concerns that are underlying anti-immigration sentiment and populism.
Just going to skip ahead actually on this. We can come back to these other things. I want to talk about another survey experiment that I did based on work with Simon Hix and Thomas Leeper of the LSE. This is a survey of May 2017 with 3600 respondents. And the question here is this, ‘When Britain leaves the European Union, analysts believe the government will, for economic reasons, keep immigration levels at about the same level as now. If this were to occur, how satisfied would you feel about Britain’s decision to leave the EU?’ 0 being very dissatisfied, 10 being very satisfied, 5 being kind of neutral. About 36%, over a third of Leave voters say they would be dissatisfied with that outcome – immigration remaining at the same level. The overall satisfaction – again this is assuming Brexit, so Britain leaving the EU but immigration remaining the same – the overall satisfaction on a 0 to 10 scale is only barely over the 5 intermediate level. So there’s modest, very very modest satisfaction on the part of Leave voters. This is only Leave voters. Option two says, well we’re going to reduce immigration a little, shifting the source from European more towards Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Still, even with that reducing a little, there’s 27% of Leave voters who would be dissatisfied with that outcome, and the net overall satisfaction is still relatively low. It’s above 5 but it’s only 5.95, which would suggest that even if Britain leaves the European Union, if migration numbers do not come down, there will be a significant pool of dissatisfaction amongst Leave voters. Not all Leave voters. But the level of satisfaction is not particularly high. The other question we asked was then, okay how might this impact voting? So we say the same thing, ‘When Britain officially leaves the EU, the government will keep, for economic reasons, levels of migration at about the same level. If so, which party would you be inclined to vote for?’ And we were comparing this with 2015 election results. What we see is that the Tory vote of 36 and a half percent in our data drops several percentage points. The Labour share drops, which is interesting, and I’m not able to fully explain why that would be. But most importantly, the UKIP vote share, more than triples from 4.3 – again, this data set probably undercuts UKIP voters – the shift to UKIP is roughly tripling in the event that migration remains the same after Brexit. On the option of reducing immigration a little, we still get almost a tripling from 4.3% UKIP vote to 11.7%, which I think would suggest therefore that, if there is a maintenance of the existing immigration levels, there will be a share of Leave voters who will punish the mainstream parties.
Well, I am Canadian, so I want to talk a bit about the points system in Canada and also talk a little about Australia and New Zealand, because part of the rationale for the current approach on migration of the government is that control plus skills is going to take away a lot of the grand swell of dissatisfaction around immigration, which I think is certainly part of the picture but I think is also mistaken if it thinks that it’s going to actually address fully the kind of questions that we’re facing. If we look at Canada, Australia, New Zealand, they’re characterised by a number of features, one of which is a higher foreign-born share of the population than Britain. Sort of in the 22 to 24% foreign born range compared to 14-15 for the UK. So there’s a higher share of foreign born, relatively higher immigration rates. Canada’s rate is – at least right now – over twice as high as Britain’s. We also have to factor in the relatively weaker sense, I would argue, of ethnic people-hood – certainly in Canada and in New Zealand – amongst the ethnic majority. And also more of a tradition of immigration which is important. And yet, what we see I would argue is a convergence in those societies with what we see in Europe, not to mention the United States. Instead of however, because immigrants are selected and relatively high skilled, the debate is not so much about immigrants putting pressure on public services, or immigration being connected to terrorism or crime, or some of these other themes that you get in the US and Europe, but rather, immigration as driving up housing costs, putting pressure on infrastructure, reducing quality of life and contributing to urban sprawl, and also ghettos and ethnic isolation. So it’s a somewhat different way of expressing this anti-immigration sentiment. It comes out with respect to other issues compared to societies where immigrants are poorer than the host population. What we’ve actually seen I would argue is a rise in right wing populist phenomena in both Australia and New Zealand, and increasingly now in Canada. So in New Zealand in 2017, Winston Peters of the New Zealand First party, a populist right party, went into government with Jacinda Ardern’s labour on a campaign promise of reducing immigration roughly by half, from about 70 to 80,000 down to 40,000. New Zealand firs (30:51) it down around 10 to 20,000. I think that’s clear evidence of numbers playing a role in politics and actually empowering a populist right party. In Australia, we haven’t quite seen that, although One Nation, which is the populist right party, has recently come back up to where it was at its peak in the late 90s, and Tony Abbott, the former liberal nationalist Prime Minister has made the case that immigration needs to be reduced dramatically in Australia. So it’s increasingly prominent as a debate there. And then in Canada which I, a debate which I’m closer to, what we see is immigration emerging quite recently as an important issue. In Quebec, where the ethnic French Canadian population as a share of the total has declined from about 80% in the 1960s to roughly 60% today is projected to go below 50% by 2050. You see there’s a populist right party, the CAQ, which won on a platform of reducing – for the first time ever actually – levels of immigration to the province of Quebec, and so they won an outright majority. In the province of Ontario, Doug Ford’s conservative government, while not campaigning expressly on immigration, has been in tension with Trudeau’s liberal government over illegal immigration and wanting the federal government to pay the costs of illegal immigration, and Ford’s vote base is significantly more anti-immigration that the opposition liberals. There’s also been a new populist right party called the People’s party led by Maxime Bernier, former conservative MP, and that party, it’s fledgling, it’s new, but in a bi-election in the Vancouver area, they got 11% of the vote. It remains to be seen how well they’re going to do in the next election coming up and in the next election cycles. But one thing I would say is if you look at voting data in Canada, the gap between liberal and conservative voters on immigration has expanded dramatically in the last 5 years. It is now a very clear partisan divide in a way it really wasn’t even 5 years ago. So Canada and Australia really are having big debates over numbers, and I would say that if we really are suggesting that things are hunky dory in these countries on the immigration question, I think we’re kidding ourselves.
So just to sort of try to conclude here and make some observations on policy, deeply held cultural values and psychological dispositions tend to underlie immigration opinion. Numbers matter for the salience of immigration – how important is immigration as an issue to you compared to other issues. The rise in salience is what has allowed the populist right to increase its vote share. When you have a crisis like Brexit, where the economy of the country is in doubt, no one knows what’s going to happen. That’s going to clearly take air time away from the immigration issue, and that I would argue is what’s led to a drop in the salience of immigration in this country. Many Brexit voters think that with Brexit, immigration will fall, and when it doesn’t, I think there will be – again as I’ve mentioned – there will be repercussions to that. However, if Brexit goes badly and the economy is in a tailspin, no one is going to be worrying about immigration. But if it does go well, they will be worrying about it. Numbers, and not just control and skill are whats important. A point system as in Canada, Australia is unlikely to be the silver bullet for the problem as has been mooted in a number of policy documents, such as this House of Commons Home Affairs committee report on immigration policy based on work by British Future. I love British Future’s work, but a lot of the surveys that they did which focused on, how important… you know, ‘do you want to reduce the supply of doctors and cleaners and so on’? We know again from experimental evidence that when you focus on these sub-categories or individuals, when you ask questions about immigrants as opposed to aggregate effects, such as immigration, you get different replies. And I don’t think it’s actually accurate to say that…the conclusions that they drew, which was that this was about skills and that people wouldn’t mind as long as there’s control, I think are actually mistaken. They emphasise that local impacts are what people care about. Yet the survey data shows exactly the opposite. Local is a very small part of the problem. Most people are quite satisfied with immigration’s local effects, but they’re not very satisfied with the impact on the nation as a whole. So local impact funds for immigration, areas that have a lot of immigration is unlikely to make much difference I would argue.
What we actually need, I would say, is an open conversation about the speed, and to accept that some people want a slower speed, others want faster speed, come to an accommodation where each side respects the other, and there’s an accommodation on numbers. That will mean less, that will mean a lower level of immigration than probably exists today. But it will not mean a very low level of immigration because it has to be a compromise between different forces. We have to find a way of being able to have a conversation about the cultural changes which are ultimately underlying a lot of the disquiet over immigration. This is not about hating out-groups. This is simply about attachment to ways of life, and again, I talk about this a lot in my book where if you look at survey data, say in the United States, white Americas who are attached to their white identities are actually no more hostile to African Americans or Latinos than white Americans who are not particularity attached to their white identity. It’s a different disposition from dislike of a group attachment. It is playing – as in America – in the data here, I think we need to find a way of saying, ‘Okay, some people view change as loss, they want things to move more slowly, some people want it to move more quickly. Both are valid views, let’s find a middle way’. I think that’s the only way ultimately to resolve this and take the steam out of this question. And I’m not sure the government’s current approach in this country is going to do that.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you Eric for that fascinating presentation. Very informative and good to see lots of quants in there. So I’ll now be opening floor to questions. We’ll be taking questions in batches of three. If I could kindly ask, before you ask your question if you could state your name and formal affiliation please. Gentlemen here near the front with the red tie.
Audience Member: Thank you. First of all, thank you very much Professor Kaufmann. Very fascinating statistics, and I think I could see some resonance with David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere and that differential between the some-wheres and the any-wheres, and I think both categories have very different perspectives of immigration. A couple of points I wanted to pick up on. I mean, one thing you said that…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: If you could kindly just keep to your question. We are short for time.
Audience Member: …yeah… give a little bit of background here so…my experience… I come from West London. At the moment, a lot of suburban London, in particular, I imagine it’s similar with other cities, is seeing a lot of high rise development. I think that’s because of the population increase which is very largely attributable to immigration. There is huge opposition to this. What’s interesting is this opposition is among sort of Labour voters, people who perhaps wouldn’t, well, feel very uncomfortable talking about immigration at all. Yet they are impacted this way. I actually live… just down the road from me is the Hoover Building, which is probably the UK’s most famous…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: That’s very nice, but if you could just kindly move on to the question
Audience Member: There’s a plan to build a 22-story residential tower block. So, my point is, and I suppose my question is…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you
Audience Member: I would not quite agree with your analysis that people aren’t concerned about local impacts, because my observation has been that actually local impacts are very, very significant.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you for that.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Alright yeah. Should I just…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: No, we’ll take it in batches of three and then we’ll work from there. Gentlemen here in the splendid blue shirt.
Audience Member: My name is Michael [inaudible]. You showed one of the slides where there was a differential impact when people were questioned about if there was likely to be less or more white ethnicity, as to whether they favoured immigration. I just wondered, if it was reversed, and the question was, if immigration increased the white population, so that people came from Europe or the Anglo-sphere, would that make those same people more inclined to favour immigration?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. Mr Grant.
Audience Member: Thank you very much. The name’s Euan Grant. I’m a former law enforcement intelligence analyst. I co-wrote Customs and Excises proposals for relations with the new EU member states at the turn of the century where we did predict there would be high immigration, not least because of the English language attraction for workers. My question is really based on your closing point that, properly handled, there’s not necessarily any correlation between hostility to immigrants as opposed to immigration, and a high sense of cultural value. But you expressed doubts as to whether the government was getting that message across. Do you see any signs that governments plural are bringing in civil society and academia to address this gap? I would just say, I saw the fall of the Soviet Union in 1983, (41:28) warship, when I was staggered by the level of ethnic division among the crew, and I saw something rather similar at the (41:35) in 1984 when I saw two cultures.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you Mr. Grant. So if you could just address a few of those points. Raised some very interesting points.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Yeah, yeah, so the local impact. I mean, I don’t want to say local impact has no effect. I mean it certainly does, and we know… particularly locales that have rapid ethnic change. Barking and Dagenham is an example of that. Boston and Lincolnshire… that there is certainly… Barking’s BNP vote in the mid-2000s was very much connected to that rapid change. All I’m saying is that, if you aggregate across the country, very few places have had this rapid ethnic change that Barking has had, for example. They’ve had modest ethnic change. Roughly, if you ask people, is immigration a problem in your local area, only about 20% say it is. Is it a problem in the country, 70%. So I’m not saying it doesn’t matter.
Audience Member: I suppose my point was more relating to the consequences of immigration and the visual impacts… the hospitals, waiting times for schools, that kind of thing
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: The perception there’s a competition for resources essentially in local communities.
Audience Member: That’s a local impact but not necessarily from a local immigration change. It could be broader immigration change within a larger area, but its having a very large impact in one specific area. That’s the point.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Yeah, I think there’s probably, definitely something to this. We can talk more about it.
Okay, so we then had this question here about if it was a rise in Europeans. It’s still, I believe – I haven’t done the experiment – but I think it would still bring forth a response. Maybe not as strong, but I think… not so much the Anglo-sphere, but particularly if we talk about the EU, you’d still get a response. I mean we know, in the second study, that the average Leave voter actually would support a somewhat higher level of EU migration than non-EU migration. So there is a preference perhaps? Slight preference for EU over non-EU migration. But it’s not massive. I still think the EU migration brings in linguistic difference for example, or cultural difference. So it’s not strictly religious or racial, for example. So I still think you’d see opposition based on that decline in white British share. Of course, if you in an experiment say, ‘well, the children of these immigrants are actually more or less going to identify as white British’, which is heavily – not entirely but heavily – the case, then you actually reduce their opposition to immigration. So it can go different ways depending on how much assimilation people think there is.
The last question was yes, sorry. Your question then about civil society and academia
Audience Member: …and government working together on this to allay fears for everyone, everywhere… your point that loyalty to a particular nationality mind-set and view doesn’t necessarily translate into hostility to immigration. You might be having to bring in different viewpoints. People aren’t always comfortable in working together.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Yeah I mean, I think I would like to see that. I don’t it’s going to happen. Partly because people don’t want to have a conversation about this. They want… a lot of people want to suggest that if you’re from the ethnic majority and you’re attached to that ethnicity, then you must hate members or dislike members of out-groups, which is just not the case. Of course there are people who dislike members of out-groups, absolutely. But it’s very hard to get that message across. A lot of people from those groups you mentioned, more so academia than media and government, would be resistant to that kind of message. But yes, I think that is a message that does eventually need to come across. That if someone wants slower change, it’s not because they dislike out-groups, dislike minorities. That link between wanting to restrict immigration for cultural reasons and being racist or disliking out-groups, I think there needs to be a much more detailed conversation around that that’s evidence-based rather than emotional.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Alright, thank you Eric. So if we could take our next three questions. Andy at the front, if you ask your question.
Audience Member: Andy Ngo with Quillette magazine. Do the social and political consequences of the migrant crisis on this continent provide any predictions for what we may be expecting in America with the border facilities, struggling with the influx of migrants from Central America?
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Yeah…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: If we could just take two more questions. Lady there. Thank you
Audience Member: My name is Alexandra Kim. I’m based in London, working for a separate law firm. My question is, how do you think Brexit will affect migration or immigration for EU nationals who are not on the points based system that (46:45) introduced, but self-sufficient or high net worth individuals? The reason I’m asking is that our clients are high net worth individuals from around the world [inaudible] separate citizenship, and we found that they used to get separate passports to come to the UK. And here, they invest, and send children to private schools. Now they don’t do it anymore because of Brexit. And they feel they’re not going to be (47:13) On the contrary, we’re already getting enquiries from British nationals, the ones with British passports, because of Brexit. So what do you think is going to happen?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. Lady there in the… yes…yes
Audience Member: This is a question I’m quite frightened of asking
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: No, please, ask away, ask away.
Audience Member: Okay, because I’ll be painted as racist
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Not in this room
Audience Member: The question is specially to academia. The question is, because I think this country is fantastic, from the Judeo-Christianity history, we’ve got human rights. If we look at the most Islamic countries in the world, they haven’t got human rights for gays or women. And that, I think that is the main thing.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: You’re essentially asking there should be more cultural and religious considerations in our immigration system. Just to clear that up.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Okay, yeah, sure. Okay, so Andy you asked about the US case. First of all, as you probably know, the number of asylum claimants has increased dramatically in the last year at the border. I think there is a similarly in the sense that in the migrant crisis, there was this sense of people kind of coming in uncontrolled in a way. With the asylum seekers from Central America, even though it’s not illegal per say, once they get in the country, and they aren’t deported, it’s effectively amounting to the same thing. So I think this is certainly driving salience. If you look at, ask republican voters, what’s the most important thing facing the country, it’s about 40% now saying immigration, which is about where Brexit voters were prior to the Brexit vote. So I think we’re seeing a very sort of similar kind of discussion going on. If that issue is not addressed, that will remain a highly defining issue in American politics. Not sure if I entirely answered your question. Or are you thinking future? If the flow isn’t reduced? Is that what your question is?
Audience Member: Well, I mean just seeing how… the importance of the salience on immigration yet at the same time, some of the front runners on the democrat party side have gone much further to the left and traditionally what the democrats’ position has been on immigration. Maybe that has a… an advantage I suppose? But I’m wondering when it comes to general elections, if it will hurt them?
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: I think it will hurt them. But it’s also the case that in that one third of white Americans who call themselves liberal, the number who say immigration should be increased, has risen. There has been this bifurcation. So the white liberal Americans are much more liberal on immigration than they were even in 2016. So it’s going to help them amongst those activists… amongst that group, but not I think in the election. That would be my take. I think having no plan for what you’re going to do about the borders, not I think going to help the democrats.
The second question was, you were talking about the EU high net worth nationals who wouldn’t make it in under the point system. I would’ve thought they might make it in under the point system.
Audience Member: They would not want to get a job, for example under sponsorship scheme. They may want to set up their own business, or use the money they have to live here and send their children to study and work here at colleges, universities to study….
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Well, I think the government planning to make it based on the points system. I mean I think the levels will remain relatively high. I mean this all depends on what happens to the economy with Brexit. But certainly under the current government, it’s going to be relatively generous. I mean I can’t tell you whether they’re going to be harder or softer on that particular category. But it’s not for example a very restrictive immigration regime overall, in terms of numbers. So it should be reasonably favourable.
Last question was, yeah. This issue about Islam and so on. I mean, again, my take on this is that the Islam issue is not actually the main… it’s not the main driver of opposition immigration. I still think it’s mainly about that sense of loss, of the familiar, the country you know. Now that’s not to say this isn’t playing to some degree. But I guess I would not, sort of, favour a kind of immigration discourse that was focusing on Islam specifically because that’s the point I think the question of an out-group. I think that’s a more negative way to do it because you’re focusing attention on an out-group. If there is going to be a values, I think having a values-criteria for immigration is reasonable, where you allocate some points for cultural values, but that wouldn’t necessarily be… it wouldn’t be non-Muslim, but it might discriminate between conservative and more liberal Muslims. So liberal Muslims would be advantaged under that kind of rule. I think that’s perfectly reasonable.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Interesting. If we could have our next three questions please.
Audience Member: Hi…
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Oh no no sorry, the gentlemen in front of you. We’ll have you next as well. So sorry about that.
Audience Member: It’s a short question
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Very pleased to hear that.
Audience Member: Brilliant talk. Thank you very much. You end by saying, we need somehow to take the steam out of the issue. I wonder how we were to do that. People say the same about Brexit. That these are binary issues. You can’t simply divide the cake. You either leave the EU or you don’t. You either have more immigration, or the same level, or less. How can the steam be taken out of the issue?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. And now the gentleman.
Audience Member: And now me? Thank you. James Beckles, I’m a Councillor in London Borough of Newham which borders Barking and Dagenham. I’m also Cabinet member there for crime and communities. The question about integration, assimilation, and also the dialogue that you mentioned, to have the national dialogue. How would you facilitate that dialogue? How do you propose, or is it in your book, about having this dialogue about immigration? Would it be in the format, say like Emmanuel Macron doing a national dialogue across the country, or would it be citizens assemblies, or you know, what structure, what format?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. That’s a very good question. Yes, gentleman there in the middle.
Audience Member: Alp Mehmet from Migration Watch. I’m sorry I missed the first bit although I have heard you speak before. I’d like a little bit more about the cultural change that people have touched on and you mentioned, what exactly do you mean by that? What is the actual shape of cultural change that so worries people?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. Very good questions.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: So yes, just to (54:43)’s point about binary. I actually think the reason the immigration issue is binary is people are moralising the issue. For example, if you want to restrict, you are a racist, and if you want to expand, maybe you are some rootless cosmopolitan. I think those are both very unhelpful ways of thinking about this. I argue in the book that we should think about immigration rates like tax rates. A bit more, a bit less, meeting in the middle. Because we are talking about a number, so we should we be able to find a number that’s in the middle. Yet people invest it with this almost religious significance. So I do think we should, if we can kind of take the moralism out of it, we could actually have a pretty intelligent conversation and reach an agreement. I don’t see why we can’t. Brexit is obviously a bit trickier. I mean I guess there’s soft Brexit hard Brexit, but…that’s maybe a middle ground soft Brexit perhaps.
Right, second was this very good question about what structure the dialogue should… I actually think the problem is not so much the structure. It can happen at Westminster, it can happen locally. It’s much more about the restrictions on the conversation, which again are linked to my response to the last question that if you moralise the conversation, that if talking about cultural loss, cultural change makes you an awful person, that just shuts down this conversation, and the only people who are going to have that conversation are the populist right. And so, I really…I think that a lot of the trends in academia which are pushing towards moralising this conversation are very negative and actually are leading to divisions and polarisation. My main call simply would be to say, let’s have a sort of grown-up, take the moralism out of it, understand no one is going to get everything they want. Yeah, there is going to be assimilation which is taking place on a voluntary basis, not government forced, but it’s taking place voluntarily. That’s again something we have to talk about. No one really talks about assimilation. Only integration, which is a little bit of a weasel word, it can mean many things.
Last question which was very interesting from Alp Mehmet about culture. Yes so, culture is another weasel word. What does it actually mean? I think there are different layers, and if you look at the literature on assimilation, you know they start with speaking the language, then they talk about inter-marriage, and sharing the same identity, sharing the same sense of ancestry. That would sort of be the deepest layer of culture. But what I think is central here is that perception of shared ethnicity, really, that… which is subjective. It’s really about the sense that we are descended from common ancestors. Even if actually there’s a lot of other DNA in the population because there’s been this melting over time. Some kind of common origins. Now that doesn’t have to be everybody. So the question is not, should Britain or the US or anywhere, be multicultural or mono-cultural. The question is about how much diversity? And the diversity is a function of immigration and assimilation. Assimilation reduces the diversity. Immigration increases it. What is the appropriate level of ethnic diversity in the society? And that’s, again, one of these conversations that’s impossible to have, at least in an academic setting. It’s probably more possible in the media and government. That’s where I think we need to go.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Thank you. Could we have our final three questions? Mr. (58:32)?
Audience Member: Yeah, to what extent do you think it’s possible to consider the issue of immigration in abstraction, separately, from the question of differential fertility rates among different ethnicities. For example, in the United States, whites are now… the fertility rate among American whites is well-below replacement level. The only reason that the United States is maintaining its population is because its non-whites have a much higher fertility rate. I think there are corresponding differences among fertility rates among different ethnic groups in this country too. If what’s driving the concern is shared ethnicity, how can you begin to consider this without considering fertility, this issue?
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Lady in the pink top in the middle?
Audience Member: Thank you. My name is (59:29), I’m just a member of the public. But I was just wondering why it is that we cannot just say, no more immigration? We’re a small island. I believe Japan is the most densely populated country in the world. Anyway, we are maybe the third. I come from Kent, I used to live on the farm, maybe 6 or 7 miles from the main town, and the housing is creeping up, and also, you know, there is race course about to be taken over. It’s due to go from (1:00:05) to Folkestone… you know, total houses… so,
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: So essentially your question is… why can’t we just have a shutdown?
Audience Member: That’s it, that’s it.
Audience Member: Net immigration. Net.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Okay, thank you. Gentlemen here… Is your hand up?
Audience Member: Yeah, thank you. (1:00:25) I suppose it’s slightly connected to the first question. If you take the cultural aspects, is immigration good or bad, out of the equation, there’s going to be a lot more old people in the country that we’re going to need to support compared to working age population in 20 years. You make a really good point that this issue isn’t dead with the points-based system. So we’re going to re-visit it. I suppose my question is, do you think the population is going to be more happy to pay more taxes, more happy to have more children, more happy to retire later on, because you know that’s effectively what we’re going to have to do. I don’t know if any modelling is being done on that at all, or what your thoughts might be.
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: Well, okay, so, good question about ethnic fertility rates. I mean, what we’ve seen is actually the Hispanic fertility rate has plummeted the fastest. It was sort of 2.8 in the early 2000s, kids on average per woman, compared to about 2 for white Americans. The whites rates gone to about 1.7 something like that, and the Hispanic is now, as far as I can remember, is below 2 as well. I actually think… black fertility is actually reasonably low as well. I think it’s around 2.1. It’s not particularity high. The East Asians are obviously the lowest. I’m not sure that fertility picture is going to be that incredibly important in the US. In Britain as well, there’s been a lot of convergence, but not total convergence. You’re right. So there’s a higher fertility amongst South Asian Muslims, but it’s still only about 2 point something.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Particularity communities of Pakistani or Bangladeshi
Prof. Eric Kaufmann: The other thing we have to remember…I suppose the question is about inter-marriage and the offspring of people who are mixed. That is a factor which I would argue would tend to reduce diversity. We know of people who are, say from a Muslim majority ethnic group who marry a non-Muslim. Their offspring have a much higher likelihood of moving from saying ‘I’m Muslim’ to ‘I have no religion’. There is a shift away from…It’s much more in France than it is in Britain. So France has a much higher Muslim assimilation than Britain does. I’m not sure this will be a fertility story so much. But it’s certainly the hangover from very high fertility differences, say in the 70s. It’s working through the age structure. That’s going to have an effect. That’s why even if immigration will cut to zero, you’d still see considerable ethnic shifts.
This leads on to the second question. Can immigration be cut to zero? I mean I think there is a significant chunk of people who would like to see immigration cut to zero, but if you take the average of the population, the number that people …again, from this 2017 study, we kind of came up with a number of roughly 100,000 or thereabouts as the number that would be, the median number that people kind of wanted. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant group of people who say it should be zero. There is a significant chunk, particularity of Leave voters, who want that. My position is that there should be some kind of a middle ground position on numbers.
Last point is, a good question again about ageing population. One of the big myths actually is that immigration can address the ageing crisis, and it cannot. This is sort of mathematical. As you bring people in, they age, and so the number of people you’ll need to bring in to maintain your age structure expands logarithmically. So I think Korea has to bring in hundreds of millions, or at least tens of millions to kind of keep that age structure what it is. It’s not really a solution. The solution is yes, it’s probably going to be a combination of retirement. Any group that’s under-presented in the labour force could be women, could be old people… increasing that. There’s also been work by demographers that say that a 50-something person in China and an 80-something person in Norway have pretty similar cognitive skill, simply because of the way age is framed in different countries. So actually, using a crude measure like, ‘people 18 to 65, and divide that, that’s your productive population’, is actually pretty crude. A lot of people are productive, at least in Western countries, well beyond 65. I think it’s a bit of a fallacy to claim that immigration has much to do with addressing the ageing crisis. But yeah, eventually with the below replacement fertility, something is going to have to give, but that could just mean a declining population until such time as fertility increases, but we do not know yet how to get fertility above the 2 level in Western countries.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan: Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s us out of time. I’d like to thank you for joining us for today’s event. I hope you found it very interesting. Please show your appreciation to our guest speaker, Professor Eric Kaufmann.