Thursday, 6 November 2014

Lies, Damned Lies and Academic Studies

Another day, another academic study showing us the benefits of the European Union. This time showing that EU migration is a net benefit to the economy. This time the joyous news that immigrants from the 10 countries who joined the European Union in 2004 have added £5 billion to the economy.

They can sound very persuasive these studies by Professors at respected institutions, and if you delve a few pages into the report here ( you’ll find this

It might look very complicated and clever, but in reality it’s a bit of a statistical sleight of hand of the kind on which most academic studies rely. It takes some sketchy and incomplete data, in this case the ONS Labour Force Survey, applies some very shakey assumptions and reaches a news worthy conclusion.

For example one of these assumptions is that immigrants’ consumption of goods and services within the UK is 80% of that of natives. They freely acknowledge that there is no real data to support this, and although they don’t actually use the word, it is simply a guess.

But picking over these "studies" is as pointless an endeavour as you could hope to engage in. Just look at the decades of back and forth discussion on the “science” behind climate change, with very learned people on both sides doing fantastically complex analysis and reaching wildly different conclusions. Meanwhile the gravy train rolls on for those collecting taxes and building wind farms.

The simple point to focus on in this debate is whether or not we in the UK should have democratic control of who comes into the country or not. Under the EU this is not possible. No frothing at the mouth required, no picking apart of statistical methodology or speculating about the selection of “random” data, which is at best laborious and dull, and at worst a massive distraction from the actual problem anyway.

Outside the treaties of European Union, if we perceived it was beneficial to drop all immigration controls completely we could do it. If it was beneficial to stop all immigration completely we could do that. And through the process of democratic politics we could pick a balance anywhere we choose between those two extremes. By remaining within the EU we are committed to freedom of movement to the citizens of all member states whether it's beneficial or not. It's this loss of democratic control, rather than the actual level of immigration or the costs and benefits there-of at any particular point in time that should be the focus of our ire.