Opinion & Analysis

Europe must choose: multiculturalism or stagnation

An increasingly multi-ethnic society would safeguard Europe’s prosperity – or it can opt for nativism, labour shortages and higher taxes.

The radical right is likely to make big gains in the European Parliament next month, with the ‘great replacement’ theory becoming increasingly influential. The theory holds that liberal elites are promoting immigration from outside Europe to undermine ethnic and cultural homogeneity. Many politicians on the centre-right have chosen to accept the premise of this civilisational rhetoric, rather than confront it. Ursula von der Leyen made the Commission’s migration post ‘the Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life’. In France, the leaders of the centre-right Républicains party decry mass immigration and the “submersion” of France. Germany’s Christian Democrats said “all those who want to live here must recognise our dominant culture without any ifs or buts” in their draft manifesto, published last December. Meanwhile, Britain’s Conservatives are detaining asylum-seekers in the hope of deporting them to Rwanda.

The practical problem with this lurch to the nativist right is that Europe is ageing rapidly, and fewer immigrant taxpayers mean higher taxes on workers, to pay for pensions, healthcare and other public services for the elderly. That is well known, but what is less understood is the limited extent to which free movement of people within Europe and higher employment rates will help alleviate the scarcity of labour.

About the Author: 

John Springford is an associate fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London, having previously been deputy director. He works on the economic impact of Brexit for the CER, having put together the ‘doppelgänger’ estimates of the cost of Brexit.

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