News this month that the population of the UK is expected to exceed 70 million by 2031 will have surprised no one. Britain – more properly, England – is already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, hosting more people per square mile than India and three times the number for China. Not even the chaos of Brexit has made us less attractive to immigrants. Indeed, as the deaths last week of 39 would-be immigrants in the back of a lorry in Essex so cruelly demonstrated, fears that the nation’s gates may be about to shut has, if anything, boosted our appeal.
Here are some statistics to put the debate in context:
France is two and a quarter times bigger than the UK, but has the same population (67m). If we hive off Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with their aggregate population of just over 10 million, the 56 million residents of England are crammed into a space less than a quarter the size of their gallic neighbour.
The United States is 75 times larger than England, with a population of 327 million. If its number of people per square mile matched that of its one-time colonial master, the number of Americans would reach 24.5 billion, roughly three times the total number of people presently alive in all of the world’s 195 countries.
Scotland, by contrast, suffers from a dearth of inhabitants. A mere 5.5 million folk live north of the border, most of them within 50 miles of Edinburgh and Glasgow. While England’s population is projected to grow by 5% over the next ten years, the equivalent figure for Scotland is a miserly 1.8 per cent. The expected growth in Wales barely registers, at 0.6 per cent, against a robust 3.7 per cent for Northern Ireland, which by 2030 is expected to boast more Catholics and Nationalists than Protestants and Unionists.
In summary, England is bursting at the seams.