I’ve just finished reading The Economist’s blockbuster survey on migration. More very good work developing the newspaper’s line on the liberalisation of migration as a benefit to both nations (receiving and sending) and peoples (likewise). As I have said before (in August and in September), this issue is more important than we think and we allow the politicians to hijack it to meet their short-term (very short-term in this context) needs at our peril. Europe’s population is about to enter a very long decline. Even the new entrants from the East cannot slow the long term fall since their birth rates are already too low. Meanwhile, the only Western nation bucking the trend, the USA, could easily have 500 million inhabitants by mid-century. The economic implications are obvious.
While the USA and the emerging economies grow strongly, slow-growth Europe can only fall further and further behind. You don’t need to share The Economist’s free trader stance to recognise the stark stupidity of turning away willing, young workers at the border while our economies stagnate. We can only hope that the penny drops for European Governments before the current flow of eager migrants has lost interest and moved on to more attractive destinations. Reversing a nation’s (or an entire economic bloc’s) stance on immigration is not easy with the emotional stakes so high but the implications of getting it wrong – a shrinking and ever-more-irrelevant European economy – are too grim to contemplate.