The migrant problem at Calais is not about to go away

Morning View
Morning View

A lot of problems have come together in the incident that caused chaos in Calais yesterday, when migrants tried to board UK-bound lorries.

First, it is of course an immigration problem, as huge numbers of people from poor countries attempt to move to richer ones.

Second, linked to the first point but exaggerating it, it is an economic problem, as the relatively successful UK economy acts as a magnet even from wealthy countries like France.

Third, the security lapse was an off-shoot of the strike action by French ferry workers, which is linked to the French culture in which strikes are commonplace. France is entitled to whatever culture it chooses but it is welcome that such a propensity to industrial action is absent in the UK.

The biggest of those problems, the one relating to immigration, is set only to worsen in the coming years, amid the obscene global wealth imbalance.

Who can blame people in destitute countries risking life and limb to share in our prosperity? Yet countries such as the UK will have to be hard-hearted about it, or be overwhelmed.

This is one of the biggest moral crises of our age. Large scale overseas aid in principle is a civilised attempt to redress the wealth imbalance, but in practice it is often enriching corrupt regimes, even if indirectly, by helping them to ignore their own responsibilities to their citizens.

One change could make the UK less attractive to migrants: curbs on migrant benefits, as well as progressing apace with welfare reform so that benefits are never more appealing than work. George Osborne’s recent claim that the UK has four per cent of the global GDP and seven per cent of the global welfare bill has come under significant scrutiny, but it is clear that the welfare bill is huge and greatly in excess of the GDP share.

The UK must be an industrious place in which as many people as possible share in the national wealth, and as many as possible contribute to it. Simultaneously, firm immigration policy is harsh but needed to avoid turmoil in the UK.