There were some rather worrying numbers released this week by the Office of National Statistics that confirmed perhaps what we already knew: population growth in the UK is spiralling out of control.
The headline figures are that the population of the UK is set to exceed 70 million by the year 2029 – an increase of almost five million on the data captured in 2016 which put us at the 65.6 million mark.
As we will explore in more detail later in this article, the main cause of the rise has been net migration – i.e. more people entering the UK from overseas compared to those leaving the British Isles to set up a new life on foreign soil.
So perhaps the Brexit negotiations have taken on a wider significance. Immigration is, naturally, at the heart of the discussion, with many Leave voters citing this thorny topic as their main premise for voting out of the EU. Xenophobia? Almost certainly. But there are clear economic reasons why leaving the single market may aid the UK in the long run.
An increased population means a greater uptake of public services: schools and hospitals become more crowded as a natural consequence, while the demand for housing – most of it low cost or even council accommodation – increases exponentially.
Without wanting to sound like some kind of tabloid scaremongerist, there are obvious concerns about population growth and the impact that will have on stretched public services and quality of life.
So the question, which I never thought I’d consider myself asking, may just be is Brexit the answer to our problems….with David Davis as our knight in shining armour?
The Immigration Timebomb
The ONS statistics reveal two major factors behind the population boom: mass immigration and the natural side-effect of there being more births than deaths in the given timeframe.
Andrew Nash, from the Office of National Statistics’ Population Projections Unit, said: “Over that period [2016-2029] 54% of growth is projected to result directly from net international migration. The other 46% is because there will be more births than deaths.
“England is projected to grow more quickly than the other UK nations,” he continued. “These projections suggest slower growth than the previous (2014-based) projections.”
It is widely known that social conditions are contributing to population. Families are growing in size on their counterparts from the 1970s, for example, with the old ‘2.4 children’ notion a thing of the past. Indeed, since the seventies the number of four-children households in the UK has doubled, with Britain playing host to the largest family sizes in Europe.
At the other end of the spectrum comes increased life expectancy. As medicine, healthcare and diets improve so too does the chance of living a longer life: the ONS study finds that the number of people aged 85 or over living in the UK will double from 1.6 million in 2016 to 3.2 million in 2041.
More concern for the anti-immigration brigade will come with the knowledge that the UK’s population growth of 16% between 2016 and 2040 monumentally dwarfs that of nations known to minimise immigration: France (10%), Germany (4%) and Italy, who will actually see a net population decrease for the period.
For balance, it is interesting to note that while more than half of the population growth is expected to come from net migration, the numbers of new immigrants coming to the British Isles has actually decreased in the past year. EU migrants to the UK fell by more than 50,000 from March 2016 to March 2017, while non-EU immigration fell from 193,000 to 179,000 for the same period.
The Brexit Effect
We can only guess as to the effect of Brexit on UK population – if our glorious leaders can’t even decide on the terms of the split, how on earth can we predict what will happen next!?
Some of the academics that actually advised the Population Projections Unit have stated that a clean Brexit break – featuring immigration based on some kind of points system – would naturally lead to a decrease in net migration to the UK, although the actual specifics would depend upon the terms agreed with the EU.
In reality, it doesn’t matter whether you are in the Leave or Remain camps, the need to halt the alarming acceleration in population in the UK is essential. If you are registered with an NHS doctor, how easy is if for you to get an appointment? My guess is that most doctors’ surgeries are operating an ‘emergency appointment only’ policy, such is the over-stretching of their staff.
This is not about race, creed or nationality, it is basic economics and socio-cultural sense: the population boom must be slowed or the consequences could be dire.