Top British official says high immigration is incompatible with a ‘cohesive society’

For decades, immigration has been one of the key debates in British public life. The latest European refugee crisis, however, has pushed this debate even further into the spotlight. If a tough anti-immigration speech given by a top government official is any indication, the issue isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Speaking at the annual Conservative party conference on Tuesday in Manchester, Home Secretary Theresa May defended Britain’s plan for resettling Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East, a scheme that means opting out of a European Union plan designed to fairly redistribute refugees. Britain would not accept an E.U.-wide immigration and asylum policy “in a thousand years,” May explained.

May also argued more generally against the value of immigration. “Britain does not need net migration in the hundreds of thousands every year,” May warned, arguing that evidence showed “at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero.”

The home secretary also warned that when immigration was too high, “it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.”