Lord Owen addressing the Hellenic Psychiatric Association. London, 18 March 2016.
“A currency needs a country. A country needs its defined borders and ability to control who comes over those borders. In the 1960s we in the UK handled the Kenyan Asian influx and in the early 1970s the Ugandan Asian influx. It was not easy but the country rallied around under first Labour and then Conservative governments. Today, our Prime Minister pretends we are not involved in the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Greece, that being outside Schengen protects us. Immigration in the UK stems mainly from automatic EU rules. Our Prime Minister has supported an agreement which is being presented to the Turkish people as speeding up entry into the EU. Yet before the ink is dry on any wording, we know it is a promise that is not going to be honoured. That is no way for Britain to behave. Better tell the truth and not feed disillusionment in Turkey, an important NATO ally, later. Our problem is that immigration is far higher than the government will admit. It is creating far more strains and stresses in our national health service, our social services, our housing and our schools, than anyone is prepared to openly acknowledge. If we could slow the automatic immigration from EU countries into the UK then we would be able to use some of the freedom to manoeuvre to alleviate the human grief that is unfolding in the camps in Greece. It needs to be said quite clearly that as from the 23 June if we gain control of immigration we will have the freedom to choose. We will be able to debate the situation in Greece in Parliament and take our own democratic decisions. We could decide – and I think we would – to slow immigration from EU countries where there are no good proven economic reasons for it, and as world citizens shoulder some of the responsibility to alleviate the hardship in some of the migrant camps in Greece where Syrians have fled from towns and cities known to be the subject of an horrendous civil war. We are locked in today to a rigid box which inhibits our humane response. We would become, after leaving the EU, a more humane country. We would have a more flexible immigration policy able to admit to our country people from India or Australia who can demonstrate that they will add to our economic growth and financial stability because of their skills.
Read the full text of Lord Owen’s speech here: PressRelease18.2.16