Whilst cycling the other day, I crossed the Leicestershire-Rutland border. And I was shocked to see…nothing. No border controls, no passport checks, no customs officials. Here in Rutland we have an open borders policy. Any riff-raff can move in. I know: I was that riff-raff.
This is weird. A lot of the adverse effects that are claimed for migration into the UK should also apply to migration into Rutland. If people who move to the UK depress the wages of natives (they don’t, mostly) then surely people moving into Rutland depress Raddlepeople’s pay. Migration into Rutland also increases congestion (getting out of my road takes longer than it used to); puts pressure on local services (it’s harder to see a doctor); and has led to a combination of higher house prices and to new builds on greenfield sites.
What’s more, Rutland is a smaller fraction of the UK’s population than the UK is of the world’s population, so on this count there’s more danger of us being swamped.
Despite all this, however, there is absolutely no demand in Rutland for immigration controls. Nor is there any hostile environment policy: even people from Peterborough are tolerated.
Which poses the question: why the difference between Rutland and the UK?
It’s not, I think, because we are a lightly-populated county that won’t miss one or two fields, or that we have especially good ways of adapting to immigration. What’s true of Rutland is true of most areas. Mancs don’t want to control immigration into Manchester, except perhaps from Liverpool; people in Staffordshire don’t oppose migration from Derby; and so on.
Yes, a few areas have bans on people buying second homes. But that’s a complaint about a lack of immigration. And Cornwall and the Isle of Wight have faintly derogatory terms for outsiders – but these are regarded by most other people as expressions of a backward, even inbred, outlook.
Mostly, we have an open borders policy within the UK and almost everybody is happy with this.
Why, then, have migration controls between the UK and other countries when we don’t have them between Rutland and other counties?
You might say it’s because the UK has much higher incomes than much of the rest of the world which means that we’d simply attract too many migrants. This, however, doesn’t explain why the numbers of high-skilled migrants is limited: such people could earn good money in other countries. Nor does it explain why so many support controls on immigrants from other wealthy countries
Instead, of course, there are simple reasons for the difference. One is a fear that high immigration will somehow change the character of the country whereas Raddlepeople aren’t much bothered that folk from Nottingham will change the character of Rutland. The other is that people want governments to be in control; this explains the popularity of Brexit and even perhaps austerity. Nobody, though, wants Rutland council to be in control of very much.
I don’t want to take a view on the merits of these feelings here: they are, I think, feelings more than articulated arguments but that alone doesn’t make them wrong. What is the case, though, is that economics is not the issue. Economicky arguments for migration controls are just distractions and, I suspect, often dishonest ones.