Sir John Major has said that Britain would not close its doors to immigrants, but a short term influx of migrants from EU countries in recession needed to be addressed.
“We’ve always been an outward looking nation. We’re not going to close our doors, and nor should we economically or politically, but there is in the midst of that a particular problem of numbers,” the former Prime Minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
“It’s not Poles, it’s not Slavs, it’s not Italians, it’s number, numbers. numbers. It’s purely numbers and it may only be relatively short term…. the Eurozone of Southern Europe is close to, or probably is in recession, and is very close to even more serious economic activities. So of course there’s an accelerated amount of movement to the United Kingdom. Once they’re back in growth, the demand to come here will almost certainly fall. I see it as a short-ish term problem, maybe not a year, maybe longer, and we need a little help over that period,” he said.
Major also said the country wouldn’t have an NHS or transport system without migrants.
Major, who was Conservative PM between 1990 and 1997, spoke to an audience in Germany earlier this week about limiting free movement in the EU. Clarifying the remarks, he said: “There’s a lot of misunderstanding of the British position. We aren’t seeking to end free movement, but what’s been happening over the past few years is there’s been such a huge bulge in the amount of migrants coming to the United Kingdom the population has risen by about seven per cent in a decade.
“At the present rate, the British population would rise in a few decades by 25 per cent while the German population would have fallen. And i think as people look at the particular circumstances that we face, I think they’ll be a good deal of sympathy for the difficulty, and the European Union has a very good track record for finding its way around corners like this. The point I was making in my speech was that we shall need to do so again on this and perhaps other issues too,” he said.