Given the prominence of the immigration issue in the EU debate, I believe it’s important to highlight some key facts:
1. The vast majority of the overwhelmingly young EU migrants, who make up about four per cent of the UK’s population, are working and pay considerably more in taxes than they take out in any kind of state benefits.
2. For the past 20 years non EU net immigration, principally from Commonwealth countries such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria, has averaged around 200,000 per year and has almost invariably exceeded EU immigration.
3. For the past 20 years between 50,000 and 100,000 British citizens (net of those returning) have been leaving the UK every year, principally to other EU countries. Many are elderly and looking to retire in the sun. They also use other EU countries health services.
4. Britain has an ageing population; when we joined the EU the average age was around 33 years, whereas now it is over 40 and increasing. It is vital for our economy and our ability to finance public services and pensions this trend is reversed – young hard working immigrants can only help.
5. Just over 26 per cent of all NHS doctors are foreign born, with nearly half from the EU.
6. Because all EU countries must unanimously agree to any new country joining, the UK does have a veto on Turkish membership. Turkey is a very long way off joining the EU: 35 so called “chapters” have to be agreed and so far (after many years of off and on negotiations since 1987) only one has been. In addition, the issue of the divided island of Cyprus would need to be resolved as well as Turkey’s human rights record.