The positive impact made to our culture by waves of immigration cannot be overstated: Yvette Huddleston

This week saw Britain take another shameful step on a road towards something that quite often feels pretty alarming.

Two women take a selfie next to a mural by artist Banksy of a workman removing a star from the EU flag  near the ferry terminal in Dover. (PA).
Two women take a selfie next to a mural by artist Banksy of a workman removing a star from the EU flag near the ferry terminal in Dover. (PA).

The new immigration proposals released on Wednesday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel, specifically designed to severely restrict the ability of EU migrants to find employment in the UK post-Brexit, seem harsh, misguided and ultimately, at the very least, an exercise in self-harm.

The impact on the arts and creative industries, as I’ve previously outlined in this column, will be particularly disruptive, with long-established pan-European collaborations, many funded by the EU, coming under threat as a result. More generally it seems so incredibly short-sighted to deliberately become increasingly isolationist as a country. The immense contribution made to our culture and artistic heritge by successive waves of immigration over the course of several centuries cannot be overstated.

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Why I’m nostalgic for the golden radio age of Nicholas Parsons - Anthony ClavaneThe music, literature, visual arts, theatre and film, not to mention architecture, fashion and design of this country have all been influenced by movements of people from across the continent of Europe – West and East – and from around the world. Writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and playwrights from every corner of the earth have at various points and for various reasons made their home here – and have brought with them a diversity of sights, sounds, ideas, philosophies and approaches.

All of which have had an enriching effect on what we think of as ‘British’. And for a government that is focussed on financial, business and economic matters it seems foolhardy in the extreme to ignore the fact that, according to the most recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, the arts and culture sector contributes significantly to the UK economy, to the tune of £10.8 billion annually. If (as I suspect) money is the only language they understand, then that figure surely speaks volumes.

If we want to bring an end to prejudice and hatred then liberals need to take the lead, says Nick AhadBut, of course, you can’t put a monetary figure on the true value of engagement with the arts.

Whether as a solitary pursuit – quietly reading a book, or listening to music in your own space – or a collective experience in a theatre, cinema or concert hall, however you choose to engage, it will always have a positive benefit. In terms of wellbeing, it offers entertainment, spiritual enrichment and, on an almost subliminal level, a sense of our common humanity. Open minds lead to open hearts. Let’s choose love not hate.