THERE was much chortling after Nigel Farage sent a message of congratulation to Emma Raducanu, the first British woman to win a Grand Slam final for 44 years; for, although she learned her tennis in England, she was born in Canada, her mother is Chinese, and her father is Romanian. Among the many virulent anti-immigration messages previously put out by Mr Farage was one suggesting that most people would not want a Romanian living next door to them. It would surely have been more in character for the great Brexit campaigner to have greeted the teenager’s triumph by complaining about foreigners’ coming over here and taking all our tennis titles.
Sadly, Mr Farage was not alone in attracting accusations of hypocrisy. The Prime Minister, who also sent congratulations, complained in 2013 that the chief contribution of Romanian immigrants to British life was to boost the numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets of London.
There is a serious point here. Miss Raducanu’s Twitter biography reads: London- Toronto-Shenyang-Bucharest. She has previously spoken proudly about the importance of her mixed heritage and the particular qualities that she inherited from Chinese and Romanian culture. Her success demonstrates how cultural difference can be a strength rather than a weakness to any nation.
The importance of immigrants to the British economy has been underscored by the problems that have arisen for many employers since countless foreign workers left Britain after Brexit. It is a particular irony — in a week in which the Government is celebrating official figures showing that a post-Covid economic recovery is under way — that Britain’s bosses have been again lamenting the absence of foreign workers.
General unemployment is now below five per cent. Yet there is a record number of employment vacancies, particularly in farming and the leisure sector. These are jobs previously done largely by immigrants. Government ministers, however, seem deaf to employers’ calls for immigration to be relaxed to ease the problem. Ministers apparently expect those vacancies to be filled by unemployed British people.
This is part of the hardline nationalism that inspires policies such as Priti Patel’s plan to turn back small boats carrying migrants in the middle of the open seas — and her draconian policy on migrant detention, which, the courts found earlier this year, after several deaths in custody, breached human-rights rules.
Farmers this year have been so short of labour for fruit-picking that food has gone to waste in the fields. The problem, leaders in the agricultural and hotel sectors say, is that the skills of the unemployed and their geographical location do not overlap with labour-shortage needs. Very few former steel or chemical workers in Hartlepool are likely to travel to Somerset to pick apples. Some London hotels have almost doubled their wages, and yet they still cannot find employees.
Previously, one leading apple-grower, Ali Capper, said that it was a win-win situation, in which farmers were supplied with seasonal labour, and migrants returned home with the money to build a house and educate their children. But now, she observed, “we seem to be running our whole immigration policy on an ideological basis.” Miss Raducanu is living proof that there is a better way.