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Analysis

May’s migration target is cynical and irresponsible

by Nick Kent | 20.05.2017

In the run-up to the referendum, Leave-supporting newspapers whipped up hysteria about immigration. Britain, they said, was overwhelmed by a surge of migrants who were causing a crisis in the NHS, living off benefits, taking up precious school places and stealing British jobs. On top of all that, the Turks were coming.

Vote Leave claimed that Britain’s population would rise by up to 5 million by 2030 as a result of Turkey and four other countries joining the EU. They even said this would mean up to 13 million extra accident and emergency admissions a year.

Thanks to free movement, the very identity of our country was disappearing under a tide of freeloading migrants. And we were powerless to do anything about it. Only by leaving the EU could we “take back control”. The scare stories about immigration culminated in Nigel Farage appearing in front of a poster showing migrants fleeing the Syrian civil war with headline “Breaking Point”.

Nigel Farage anti-migrant poster compared to Nazi propaganda

Reuters

Despite these claims being untrue – Turkey, for example, isn’t joining the EU in 2020 as Brexiters claimed – Theresa May thinks the referendum was all about free movement. That is why we must risk our prosperity by quitting the EU’s successful single market, and stop the NHS hiring vital doctors and nurses from overseas.

It is also why she has repeated in her manifesto a target of getting net migration down to under 100,000 a year, even though the Tories have never hit it in the seven years they have been promising to and aren’t likely to in the next parliament either.

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The manifesto outlines plans for more restrictions on immigration, with employers forced to pay £2,000 a year for each skilled migrant they recruit from outside the EU and a clampdown on foreign students that will damage our universities. But, astonishingly, there is nothing in it about how immigration from the EU will be cut or when.

A target without a plan to hit it is the worst of all worlds.

May hasn’t even honoured Leavers’ promises that there would be a better deal for Commonwealth migrants once we leave the EU. Far from it. New restrictions on family reunion in the Tory manifesto will cut Commonwealth migration further. Talk of a special deal for curry house cooks has gone the way of last night’s vindaloo.

The pro-Brexit press was dishonest to pretend that immigration was worse than a zombie apocalypse, even if public disquiet about the scale of migration in recent years is understandable. The right response is a practical programme for controlling migration, including reforming free movement in the EU, not tilting at the windmill of a target that has never been hit.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “May’s migration target is cynical and irresponsible”

  • We currently have a ratio of working age to non working age population of 1.65. As birth rate is below 2 per woman and we are living longer this ratio will reduce unless we bring new people in. The alternative is a bankrupt economy. With £1.7trillion debt and growing with interest costs nearly £1billion a week we have to grow our economy to survive. The Governments own figures forecast net migration at 180,000 a year to maintain the working age ratio. Any politian who says migration can be substantially reduced is either stupid or a liar.

  • I really don’t see what the problem with migration is. Inward migration is a sign that an economy is healthy. The large majority of migrants are younger, active people who are less likely to be sick, and more likely to contribute to the economy. I therefore fail to see how they could be a drain on the NHS. In the context of the EU Single Market , there is a logic that people move to where the jobs are. This whole philosophy that French people should stay in France, Italians stay in Italy and the British in Britain comes from an insular mindset. I see a mixture as a cultural enrichment that we all can benefit from. Also don’t forget that if British people living on the continent got forced back to live in the UK, that would offset alot of the “gain” in net migration figures, with an added burden on the NHS due to their average age.
    I think the migration issue is simple prejudice stoked up by people like Farage, who didn’t like listening to foreign languages on public transport , or being delayed on the motorway because of traffic caused by extra migrants.

  • I agree entirely with the comments of the two previous contributors. What I find difficult to understand is why Mrs May and the UK government, not to speak of the right wing press, have not understood why immigration is not an issue. Mr Ireland and Mr Wilson Have admirably explained why this is so. It has also been proven that the last two UK governments never applied ( or apparently understood ) the Freedom of Movement Directive which had builtin safeguards against their abuse.
    Finally, Freedom of Movement is a fundamental part of the philosophy of the EU and the single market. Freedom to move across Europe, to work,study retire etc is a fantastic possibility and contributes to the breaking down of barriers between nations, the free flow of ideas etc, an incredible richness. For those who doubt this; let them ask the UK universities for their views on Brexit

  • I think alot of the migration issue stoked up by Farage, UKIP etc. is to do with the perceived idea that the migrants can’t, won’t integrate into British culture. Whilst Farage and his cohorts are the last people I would ever want to take any advice from on virtually any topic, I do believe that when moving to another country there is an onus to try and integrate and learn the native language.
    I think here the Merkel led German government set a good example on making it conditional for new migrants to follow an integration course and learn German. Learning the language is absolutely key to acceptance by the local population, as well as being important in the jobs market etc.
    What is also interesting is the track record on integration in Germany, where a very large number of east Europeans arrived during the last century. The telephone books of Berlin and Hamburg are full of Polish sounding names, yet when you speak to them, they come across as completely German. Many are second or third generation whose families arrived in the early part of the 20th century. If such people have been able to integrate so well into modern Germany, I see no reason why their equivalents can’t integrate into modern Britain.