Philip Hollobone – 2016 Speech on EU Immigration

Below is the text of the speech made by Philip Hollobone in Westminster Hall on 5 May 2016.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered immigration from the EU.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) for attending; this is a bigger audience than I normally get, and I will do my best to cope with it.

Immigration is an important issue for my constituents—it is the number one issue on the doorstep. It is now, in the run-up to the EU referendum on 23 June, but it has been for many years. Simply put, the problem is that the number of people coming into our country, both from outside the European Union and from inside it, is simply too great for our country or, indeed, my constituency to cope with.

Hon. Members will recall that when we joined the European Union on 1 January 1973, immigration from the then Common Market was not an issue. We joined an association of trading partners. That was the decision taken at the time, rightly or wrongly, but the number of Common Market citizens coming to the United Kingdom was relatively small and easy for the country to cope with. Indeed, the flow of United Kingdom citizens into the Common Market area was also small. But we are now in a different world, in which our membership of what was then the Common Market morphed into the European Community and now the European Union—if we stay in, no doubt, it will become the united states of Europe. Immigration is happening on a simply unprecedented scale and we are not able to cope with the numbers coming to our shores from the European Union. That is a big problem, because we have absolutely no control over it.

Immigration has been a big issue for some time, but my attention was drawn to the scale of the problem when it was revealed just a few weeks ago that, although official figures from the Home Office state that 257,000 EU migrants arrived in our country last year, 630,000 EU citizens were issued with British national insurance numbers over the same period. My alarm at the scale of those numbers was intensified by the disparity between the two. My constituents and I are extremely worried that the official Government statistics on the number of people coming to our shores from the European Union are simply not true. If the discrepancy between the two figures cannot somehow be reconciled, we are underestimating the numbers coming into this country by a significant margin. The number of migrants living in the UK may have been undercounted by a quarter of a million over the past five years. If that is true, the British public need to be told. Unless we have some faith in the official statistics given by Her Majesty’s Government, widespread alarm could grow that the scale of the problem we are facing is far bigger than we had estimated.

Migration Watch, which is the respected body of choice for the independent analysis of migration figures, has done a report comparing the migration figures with population estimates for migrants born in the group of eastern European countries known as the A8 nations—the nations that joined the European Union in 2004. The report shows that between 2010 and 2015, the population born in the A8 countries and living in the UK increased by an average of 90,000 a year, but, during the same period, estimated net migration and the official statistics from the A8 countries averaged only 40,000. That is a difference of more than 50,000 a year. The chairman of Migration Watch UK, the respected Lord Green of Deddington, said:

“This analysis casts serious doubt on the accuracy of our immigration figures.”

The row over the numbers has been stirred by the fact that Her Majesty’s Government refused freedom of information requests at the end of last year that would have clarified the situation. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that some 919,000 EU migrants have arrived in Britain since June 2010, but in that same time—over the past six years—some 2.2 million national insurance numbers have been issued to EU migrants. That official figure, 919,000, is worth dwelling on for a moment. The spokesman for Her Majesty’s Opposition, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), might like to note that when the Labour party was in government and the A8 countries were admitted to the European Union, we were reliably told by the Minister at the time that only 13,000 A8 migrants were expected to come to our shores. We are now approaching 1 million and counting.

The gap in the numbers is extremely disturbing. I understand that, having resisted for several months, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agreed in April to pass information to the Office for National Statistics to examine whether the numbers might be reconciled, and that the Office for National Statistics is now processing the information and plans to release a reconciliation on 26 May. Will the Minister confirm whether that is his understanding of the process and that we can expect the reconciliation numbers to be published on 26 May? It is important that the numbers are released before the referendum on 23 June; otherwise, the British people might make the decision on our ongoing membership of the European Union without all the requisite information.

Of the national insurance numbers issued, I understand that some 209,000 were given to Romanians and Bulgarians, yet, officially, only 55,000 Romanians and Bulgarians settled here last year. Those numbers are extremely worrying for my constituents and for the country. We may now have reached a total of some 450,000 Romanian and Bulgarian nationals living in the United Kingdom. When we debated the number of Romanians and Bulgarians expected to come to this country after their countries’ accession, we were told that projections of half a million people coming from those two countries were simply fanciful and scaremongering and that we should know better. We have had debates in this very Chamber in which those dangers were highlighted.

If it is true that we now have 450,000 Romanians and Bulgarians in this country, an apology from Her Majesty’s Government would be most welcome, because those of us who have been trying for some time to alert the Government to the dangers of the scale of migration have, frankly, been ignored. The British people will not put up with this for much longer. Also, it is a breach of a key Government promise that EU migrants coming to this country must have a job offer, because, in November 2014, the Prime Minister said:

“We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here”.

EU migrants are coming to this country without a job offer and getting national insurance numbers, yet our official statistics are not recognising those people properly.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con)

It occurs to me that the Prime Minister actually said the people from overseas would be here for up to six months when they were looking for work. Which was correct? Was it the people overseas telling me that or was it the Prime Minister?

Mr Hollobone

I would like to know the answer to that question as well. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for posing it. Perhaps the Minister will clarify when he responds at the end of the debate, because my hon. Friend makes an extremely important point.

We have had an attempt to reform how Britain’s membership of the European Union works. The Prime Minister has concluded some form of minor renegotiation of our terms of membership, which, surprisingly and increasingly, members of the Government do not seem to talk much about, but apparently this reform has given us special status in the EU, despite the fact that in the official communiqué about the supposed renegotiation, the term “special status” is nowhere mentioned. It is my contention that the proposed minor reforms to benefit entitlements for EU migrants will not slow the intake of EU migrants to our shores at all.

A report this week says that only 6% of such migrants would be affected by the proposals, and I would suggest that the very welcome increase in the national minimum wage and the new national living wage will act as a far greater magnet for workers to come here from other European Union countries. Increasingly, even more than now, the United Kingdom will be seen to be the land of milk and honey with not only the strongest growth rate in the European Union, but now a national living wage well above what many could hope to earn in their own poorer countries within the European Union.

My concerns on behalf of my constituents about the dodgy statistics being used by the Government to count the number of people coming here and about the inadequacy of the supposed renegotiation that the Prime Minister has concluded were added to by further talk about the future admission of Turkey to the European Union. The more I have researched this subject on behalf of my constituents in Kettering, the more alarmed I have become. Yesterday, perhaps anticipating remarks that might be made during this debate, the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee:

“I would say very clearly to people, if your vote in this referendum is being influenced by considerations about Turkish membership of the EU, don’t think about it… It’s not an issue in this referendum and it shouldn’t be.”

He went on to say that it would not happen for “decades”. I contend that that is simply not the case. Indeed, it is official Government policy to encourage Turkish membership and accession to the European Union. Were Turkey ever to join, the concerns we have now about the present level of immigration to this country from the European Union would be magnified several times over. Perhaps I can give the House some figures that demonstrate the scale of the potential challenge we face.

The A8 countries that joined in 2004 comprise Poland, with 38.5 million people; the Czech Republic, with 10.5 million; Hungary, 10 million; Slovakia, 5.5 million; Lithuania, 3 million; Slovenia and Latvia, with 2 million each; and Estonia, with 1.3 million. Mr Pritchard, you are probably the only person in this room to have visited all those countries, given your reputation for wanting to see international issues at first hand. I know that your reputation precedes you in many of those nations. If we add up all the A8 countries, the figure comes to 72.8 million people. That is the number of people who joined the European Union when the A8 countries joined in 2004.

There are 75 million people in Turkey. The figure is slightly smaller than Germany’s population of 80 million and bigger than the populations of France with 66 million, ourselves with 65 million, and Italy with 61 million. In addition, Turkey would be the poorest member of the European Union. Its GDP per capita is $9,500 per year compared with Poland’s—the biggest of the A8 countries—$13,400 per year and our $43,800 per year. Those 75 million Turkish people are more numerous than us and poorer than us. Most of them are Muslim and they have a different culture. Were those people to emigrate to our shores at the same rate as people from the A8 countries have done, it would transform communities in this country up and down the land, yet it is the official policy of Her Majesty’s Government to actively encourage Turkey to join the European Union.

In Kettering, there are 74,000 registered electors; 4,000 of them are EU citizens, most of whom come from the A8 accession countries. Were Turkey to join the European Union—given that it is poorer than any of the A8 and more numerous than all the A8 combined—we can expect, within five to 10 years of Turkish accession, 4,000 Turkish people in Kettering. I am sure you know many Turkish people, Mr Pritchard; I know several, some of whom live in Kettering and are a great asset to the local community. They are hard-working, diligent, family people. The problem is not their ethnicity, their language or their culture; it is the number that could come to our shores.

If a little borough such as Kettering can expect to have 4,000 Turkish people in short order, imagine what would happen in some of our larger towns and cities. There would be an influx with which we would simply not be able to cope. We are finding it difficult to absorb 1 million migrants—that is the official statistic. It could be double that once the true figures are revealed from the accession A8 eastern European countries. Were we to get immigration on a similar scale from Turkey, this country would be transformed and, I would suggest, not for the better.

London is currently the biggest city in the European Union with 8.5 million people. Istanbul has 14 million people, and only 3% of Turkey is actually in Europe. Turkey’s accession would extend the borders of the European Union to the borders of Syria, Iraq and Iran, and we know that Turkey’s borders are not secure, which is one of the reasons why we have the troubles that we do with ISIS in Syria. Imagine if Frontex, the EU border force, were put in charge of the Turkish border with Syria, Iraq and Iran. I suggest that there is simply no way that Britain’s future would be safer and more secure as a member of a European Union with such external frontiers.

The Prime Minister said in his remarks to the Liaison Committee that he did not expect Turkish accession for decades, yet Her Majesty’s Government are providing millions of pounds to Turkey to help it to prepare for entry to the European Union. Other accession countries are also in the queue: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia; and the EU has agreed to an instrument for pre-accession assistance to pay money to those countries to facilitate their becoming EU nation states. The UK’s share of that money is £1.2 billion between 2014 and 2020, which is a rate of £170 million each year. That annual sum is the equivalent of half the NHS cancer drugs fund managed by NHS England. It would pay for child benefit for 157,000 children. It would pay for 27,000 state pensions. I know that this will interest my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis): it would treble the UK Government’s dedicated pothole action fund. Those are very large sums of money, which we are giving to the accession states, yet the Prime Minister tells us that accession will not happen for decades. Well, both sides of the argument cannot be right. Either Turkey is not going to join—in which case, why are we spending all this money?—or it is going to, in which case the British people are not being told the whole truth.

We are giving, each year, for this fund, £9 million to Albania, yet Albania has some of the nastiest criminals in the whole European Union. I am afraid that, along with lots of immigrants from the EU to this country, we are also importing a wave of crime. There are 472 Albanian nationals currently serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure in our prisons. Albania is in fifth place in the list of countries that have exported their criminals to this country. Albania, with 472 people in our jails, has a population of 3 million. Poland has a population of 38 million, and there are 951 Polish nationals in our prisons. Albania in particular has a problem with organised crime, and it has come, and is coming, our way. Albanian mafia gangs are believed to be largely behind sex trafficking and immigrant smuggling, as well as working with Turkish gangs that control the heroin trade in the United Kingdom. I am sure that the Minister will want to help the House by giving us more details about the extent to which crime from Turkey and Albania is already on the streets of London.

Vice squad officers estimate that Albanians now control more than 75% of this country’s brothels and that their operations in London’s Soho alone are worth more than £15 million a year. They are said to be present in every big city in Britain, after fighting off rival criminals in turf wars. Hon. Members will know from the number of Romanians and Bulgarians in our prisons and the number of arrests made of Romanians and Bulgarians that we have already imported a wave of crime from EU-entrant countries. I and my constituents are worried about that wave of crime being magnified with new entrant countries if they include Albania and Turkey.

We are giving £2 billion to the accession countries to encourage them to join the European Union. On top of that financial assistance, which would be better spent on health services in our constituencies, we now have a visa-free area all the way from Calais to the Syrian border, because the EU Commission, in its wisdom, has proposed visa-free access for 75 million Turkish citizens, to the Schengen area. That is part of a co-ordinated, accelerated move towards Turkish accession to the European Union. The Commission has also proposed visa-free access for Kosovo. The problem with Schengen is that, although it makes it easy for people to travel across the Schengen area without having to show their passports, criminals can now pass from the Syrian border to the French coast at Calais without being intercepted. Ronald Noble, the former Secretary General of Interpol, has said that the Schengen system

“is effectively an international passport-free zone for terrorists to execute attacks on the Continent and make their escape… Leading up to these latest attacks, none of those countries systematically screened passports or verified the identities of those crossing borders by land or at seaports or airports. This is like hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe. And they have been accepting the invitation”.

With the wave of immigration, we now have visa-free travel for citizens of non-EU-member states across the Schengen area, all the way to the English channel. I suggest that that endangers our security.

The Lord Chancellor, who is a wise man and who has been ahead of the curve on the issue, has said that the wave of immigration hitting our shores, which is set to get worse if we stay in the European Union, is a direct and serious threat to public services in the United Kingdom. To give one example, GP registrations have increased in this country by 1.5 million in the past three years alone.

It is commonly assumed that the crisis in our accident and emergency departments is caused by new migrants not actually registering with their GPs at all, but going straight to A&E whenever something goes wrong, thus clogging up the system for everyone else. That is just one example of the pressure on our public services. Another would be schools. It is not now uncommon for primary schools to have lots of children whose first language is not English. That puts a great strain not only on the number of school places but on the resources that schools must find to provide the requisite education for our youngsters.

Not only has the EU bent rules to create a visa-free zone from Syria to the English channel, but I contend that many of the people in that zone will end up as migrants to these shores in the fullness of time. It is all very well for the Germans to grant asylum to 1 million Syrians, but in five years’ time those 1 million Syrians will be able to get EU passports and to come to this country, with London in particular acting as a magnet. While we remain in the European Union we have no control on the numbers coming to our shores.

Frontex, the seriously discredited EU border force, which is clearly struggling to maintain the security of Europe’s borders, has said that the expansion of the visa-free area will increase the pressure on our borders. A recent Frontex report noted:

“The number of persons aiming to get to the UK with fraudulent document significantly increased (+70%) compared to 2014. This trend is mostly attributable to the increasing number of Albanian nationals often misusing Italian and Greek ID cards followed by Ukrainian nationals abusing authentic Polish ID cards”.

There we have it. Members do not have to believe me: Frontex, the EU’s border force, says that there has been a 70% increase in the number of people using false documentation to try to get into the United Kingdom.

Mr Andrew Turner

Will my hon. Friend repeat what he just said about the ability of people with no UK passport to come into this country because they have a German passport, which they can become a holder of very quickly?

Mr Hollobone

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that issue. Many other EU countries do not have the rigorous rules on the issuance of passports that we have. For example, in Romania, there are lots of Moldovans. Moldova is not in the European Union; it is next door to Romania and used to be part of Romania, but it is no longer. Lots of Moldovans qualify for EU passports because they are the grandparents of Romanian citizens. They are not EU citizens, but with their EU passport they are able to waltz into the United Kingdom and we are unable to do anything about it. Were we a free, independent and sovereign nation once again, we could say, “No, you’re not allowed into this country,” because we could set new rules. While we are a member of the European Union and the European Court oversees our border policy, we do not have that right.

The migration crisis is already having an impact on the forces that we have at our disposal to control our borders. The UK Border Force runs five seaborne cutters to protect Britain’s shores from immigration from the European Union. At any one time, one is under repair, which leaves four others. Two have been sent to help out with the migration crisis between Greece and Turkey, which leaves just two to patrol Britain’s territorial waters. Members will be as shocked as I am to learn that official Home Office statistics show that 67,500 small planes and boats enter Britain each year unchecked. At least, that is what the Home Office tells us. That is an alarming number of incursions into British airspace and British territorial waters. Reducing the number of seaborne cutters available to intercept such vessels clearly weakens our borders.

This week, the situation relating to our borders and to people coming to this country from the EU was made even worse by new European Union rules on the Dublin regulations. The Dublin regulations say that, if a person claims asylum in an EU nation state and then goes to another EU nation state, the second country can send them back to the first. That is the way the system is meant to work, except that it does not work with Greece, because its system is meant to be so badly run that sending an individual back to that country after they have been intercepted here breaches their human rights. That is despite the fact that tens of thousands of our citizens go to Greece on holiday every year.

Under the Dublin regulations, we have been sending back only 1% of the asylum seekers who reach our shores. That is pretty pathetic, but the European Commission is now changing the regulations, and will give us no guarantee that Britain will be able to maintain even the current regulations should we decide to stay in the European Union. I seek further clarification from the Minister on that point, because my constituents are concerned not only about the volume of legal immigration to this country, but about people abusing the asylum system to come to our shores.

The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire)

As I said on the Floor of the House yesterday, the Commission has said that the UK would be able to maintain the Dublin regulations as they currently exist should we decide not to opt in to the new proposals. It is important to make that point clear.

Mr Hollobone

The Minister places more reliance on the European Commission’s word than my constituents and I do. There is nothing to stop it changing its mind once we have voted to stay in the European Union. Indeed, in the draft proposals, it threatened the United Kingdom with financial consequences should we not co-operate with its decision. Although I take careful note of what the Minister says, I am afraid I do not have as much faith as he has in what the Commission tells us.

James Brokenshire

On that point, my hon. Friend has highlighted the issues relating to the new regulation but, as he knows, the UK has an opt-out: we have to positively opt in to new measures with a justice and home affairs base, of which this is one. Therefore, the UK has that protection, which goes much further than anything the Commission says.

Mr Hollobone

Again, although I admire the Minister’s confidence that what the European Union tells us will in fact be the case, I simply do not trust it, because it has gone back on things before and I expect it will again. The reason why I think it will go back on its word is that the scale of the asylum problem in the European Union is out of control. The EU has decided that it is simply not possible for the existing Dublin regulations to work effectively. Now it wants a quota of people from non-EU countries who come to Europe claiming asylum to be allocated to other member states. My great fear is that, if we vote to stay in the European Union, we will be lumbered with some of those asylum seekers, especially because we would remain under the control of the European Court, which would ultimately decide what our asylum policy should be. If we decide to leave the European Union, we will be able to decide our asylum policy for ourselves. I am sure it would be free and fair, but it would not be the free-for-all that we have at the moment.

The consequence of all this immigration from the EU, in whatever form it takes, is that we are losing control of our country. I asked the Transport Secretary for his transport projections, and I was given three sets of figures. The road traffic forecast for England suggests that traffic will increase between 4% and 20% by 2020; between 11% and 38% by 2030; and between 15% and 52% by 2040—that is before Turkey joins the European Union. Can hon. Members imagine 50% more vehicles on our roads by 2040? Those are not my figures, but Her Majesty’s Government’s official estimates of what is happening to roads in every constituency in our country.

Increasingly—I am sure we all have constituents who have had this experience—job vacancies require people to speak Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian or even Russian. A recent report showed that dozens of vacancies on a Government-backed recruitment site called Universal Jobmatch stressed that it is important for people working in certain occupations, such as painting or decorating, to be able to converse in Polish. That is discrimination against our own people, and we all know it is happening in every constituency in this country. It is absurd to expect someone who was born and brought up in this country to speak one of those eastern European languages to secure a fairly menial job.

The pressure of all this immigration from the EU has caused the population of this country to rise to seriously unsustainable levels. As the chairmen of the cross-party group on balanced migration highlighted, official Government projections show that our population will grow by nearly 10 million in the next 25 years to more than 74 million people.

Currently, we are at 64 million; they expect that to go up to 74 million.

If all immigration from the EU and elsewhere were to end tomorrow and were reduced to zero, the UK population would rise from 64 million today, to almost 68 million by 2039, official Government statistics estimate. If we were to have net migration of just over 100,000 a year—just outside the commitment in the Conservative manifesto, on which you, Mr Pritchard, the Minister, the Parliamentary Private Secretary present, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North, my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight and I were elected only a year ago—the population would rise to 72 million by 2039. If immigration were to rise at 185,000 a year, which is the central long-term estimate that Her Majesty’s Government agree with and included in the infamous, dodgy Treasury document published a few weeks ago, our population would be set to rise to 74 million by 2039. If immigration were to rise at the high predicted rate of 265,000 a year, we could expect a population of almost 77 million.

Turkey has a population of 75 million. Its population is going down in number, and the people coming to this country will help to boost our population from 64 million today to perhaps 77 million by 2040. My contention is that this country will simply not be able to cope, in terms of infrastructure, public service provision or culture, if we agree to a wave of immigration on that scale.

When my constituents are thinking about how to vote on 23 June, I say, “This is it. This is going to be your one and only chance. Do you want your country back? If so, vote to leave. If you’re happy to have a wave of immigration from Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and other new entrant countries, then either stay at home or vote to remain, but your country will not be your country in 2040.”