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Good day. Earlier this week, I wrote about my surprise that the UK’s record high levels of immigration have yet to spark the political and social backlash that followed previous spikes.

Several of you came up with an interesting, and I think plausible, theory as to why. Some thoughts about it below.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and comments to

The history of British immigration policy is one of relative and, in some cases, complete openness, followed by political backlash and a sharp reduction in people’s right to come to the UK. I wrote earlier this week. that I thought this pattern was likely to continue, and that the attempt by successive Tory governments to prevent this by combining relatively easy movement with draconian restrictions on refugees and dependents of students abroad would prove no more effective than a combination of policies similar by New Labour.

Many of you thought that I was missing something quite important: new!

Ultimately, the arrival of people like my great-great-grandparents from the Russian empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a big deal, culturally and socially. It changed the makeup of the country and of the East End of London and other coastal cities in particular.

The same was true of the arrival of people like my grandparents from South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 1960s, the grandparents of my school friends from the Indian subcontinent, and people from the former Eastern Bloc in the 2000s.

They were big cultural changes. They meant a lot in terms of the food available in stores, local customs, languages ​​spoken in major cities, etc. Unsurprisingly, I think these were long-term positive changes, but they were certainly of great importance.

Is the current migration that significant? Well, a look at the data from the annual population survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, analyzed last year by the Oxford University Migration Observatorysuggests maybe not.

Bar chart of the percentage of the UK foreign-born population by country of birth, for the year ending June 2021, showing that India became the most common country of origin for immigrants to the UK after several Poles left
Bar chart of the percentage of UK foreign nationals by country of citizenship, for the year ending June 2021 showing migration history from Great Britain

In terms of what it means to be British today, as well as the food in shops, local restaurants and the languages ​​spoken in our major cities, this list of countries is very old news.

The UK immigration system means that, in practice, almost everyone who comes to the UK comes with a job offer or a university place. Combined with the fact that most students and workers abroad come from countries that have long-standing ties to the UK and existing communal networks, why would we expect this round of immigration to have similar social or political effects to the ones we’ve seen in the past?

There are now two countries that make up a sizeable part of this year’s figures: Hong Kong and Ukraine (see our report here). Like these two excellent pieces on the experience of Hong Kongers in the UK by Alexandra Goss and our very own Georgina Quach To demonstrate, we are not talking about a population that requires a large amount of government help to integrate into the UK, although individual cases differ.

The challenges facing Ukrainian refugees are more complicated. It helps that the Ukrainian cause is very popular in the UK. I have yet to visit a constituency and have not seen at least one visible sign of support for Ukraine, be it a bumper sticker, a flag in a window, or flying from a chimney. but this represents a potential major change for the UK. It may be that, as the Homes for Ukraine scheme unfolds, we will see a return to something much more like previous waves of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.

For the most part, many of those arriving are doing what most new immigrants tend to do: seeking to live in areas where there is already a pre-existing diaspora presence that is fairly well integrated into local areas. As people move to historically less diverse areas, that may change.

But how John Burn-Murdoch’s rich research on the social differences between the United States and Great Britain This week shows that the UK has a pretty good story to tell when it comes to integration.

I don’t know if this explanation is correct and, as I say, it is possible that the events could mean that we see a return to some of the political fissures of the past. But I am saying that while we debate the high numbers of net migration from the UK and what Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer should do next, we should at least consider the possibility that perhaps the fact that so many people with jobs, university places and Family ties in the UK I still want to come here is something to celebrate, not worry about.

now try this

I just devoured the latest Linda Grant novel, the story of the forest, a fascinating family saga that stretches from Latvia to Liverpool and the better part of a century. It’s a truly fantastic book, with a beautiful cover, which I know should be a secondary concern, but an added delight nonetheless. Don’t just take my word for it – Catherine Taylor thought it was great too. Read his review here.

However you spend it, have a wonderful weekend. internal policy will be back on Tuesday.

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