Northern Lights: “Sheffield is a place with a proud history of standing against racism”

I was travelling on a bus recently into town, when I overheard a conversation between two passengers. One I have heard repeated down the decades, mainly in other places, rarely on Sheffield buses.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 11:49 am
Updated Saturday, 9th February 2019, 9:30 am
passengers chatting on the bus (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The age-old narrative went something like ‘every one of these foreigners, especially the EU foreigners, have been coming over here taking our jobs, not paying taxes, taking our houses and benefits. They’re always the riff raff of the society they come from. You never see an influx of millionaires coming in do you?’ His co-passenger then launched into a diatribe that echoed comparable sentiments and complained bitterly how their personal wealth, which transpired to be welfare benefits, was being eroded due to ‘Europeans’, followed by them launching into a diatribe against the ‘Polish’.  Seated in front was a Polish speaking mother trying to soothe and occupy her young child. 

For those who know me well, you will know that such prejudice and stereotyping is like a red rag to a bull. However, before I was able to challenge them, the two of them jumped off the bus at Ponds Street - luckily for them. What I would have told them was that EU migrants living in Britain, including two million CEE nationals, contribute £2,300 more in taxes each year in net terms than the average British adult.

Indeed, when it comes to the public finances, European migrants contribute substantially more than they cost, easing the tax burden on other taxpayers. I would have shared with them also that over their lifetimes, EU migrants pay in £78,000 pounds more than they take out in public services and benefits. This data is part of a new analysis from September 2018, from Oxford Economics, it was carried out for the UK government. The study also makes explicit that if the UK’s new relationship with Europe results in reductions in migration then the tax burden on others will inevitably have to rise.

What my co-bus passengers said also got me thinking about the migration demographics we are often fed through Government and some party political linked think tank or other. I concluded that the passengers were evidently forming some of their views from these information releases because rarely do these figures include a segment that identifies millionaires. However, the reality is millionaires do migrate into Britain and likewise they leave.

The New World Wealth research organisation in South Africa tracking the migration of millionaires have been paying particular attention to Britain. A location which has always been a magnate for the wealthy, especially those attracted to the nations’ circumspect banks and at various times, loose regulations, as well as the bright lights of London and even our Sheffield delights.

However, the annual ‘influx’ of millionaires, coming into Britain started reducing from 2016 and in 2017 Britain saw an exodus, whereby 3,000 millionaires withdrew from Britain, due to their concerns about London fading as a financial capital of Europe under Brexit. 

Throughout history when a country starts to move into economic, social and political difficulties, wealthy people and their big businesses are often the first to relocate their money, companies and assets to safer havens. Millionaires do not always physically emigrate but when this starts happening, it’s a tell-tale sign trouble is afoot. Some might say good riddance to the wealthy, however, it is fact that there are no gains to be had with losing their capital, talent, taxes and investment.

While it is easy in these uncertain days to sit on buses sharing ‘opinions’ it remains, in these days of heightened tension, morally incumbent upon everyone to ensure opinions being peddled are not discriminatory and are factual and robustly informed.

As I got off the bus, I saw the mother and her little child, carrying battered cases, speaking Polish. I made a point of talking to them, and the mother explained she and her child were coming to stay with her sister following the child’s father being tragically killed in Gdansk.

I explained that I too, at one time, had been a newcomer into the UK and that I, with other members of my family had been blessed to land up in Sheffield, a place I told her, of sanctuary and inclusion. A place with a proud history of standing up against racism and other prejudices, and where the vast majority of people I had found, were not like the ten bob racist millionaires she and her child had heard. Sheffield, I said to her, is filled with decent people who have the biggest hearts in Britain and long may it be so.