Whether you voted to remain or to leave – Brexit presents a colossal opportunity on immigration, because for the first time in a generation, our elected politicians will have full control.
Whilst members of the European Union, what parties put in their manifestos on immigration was effectively pointless – as we outsourced a huge part of our immigration policy to the EU. Now we are on the road to leaving, the immigration sections in party manifestos have never been so important.
For this reason, I have poured through the detail to see how each policy stacks up.
Theresa May has recommitted her government to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands – something I wholly endorse. However, the manifesto itself gives little detail on how it will actually achieve its goal. Up to the general election, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said the government was considering its options, with a work permit system being the most likely outcome.
Doubling the Immigration Skills Charge to £2000 is a smart move which could raise millions. In the long term, this could reduce the amount of Tier 2 skilled visas (94,000 in 2016) as businesses begin to train and employ native workers as opposed to seeking skills from abroad.
The Tories are committing to keeping student migration in the official ONS numbers, and also crack down on student over-stayers, which I fully support.
Although the objective is clear, they provide little detail how they will reach the target unless they make further changes to unskilled and Tier 2 Labour. This is something I set out myself in a ‘Fair, Flexible and Forward Thinking’ immigration policy backed by some Senior Conservative MPs. Although, there is growing pressure not to reach this target from academics, lobbyists and some Conservative back benchers.
Any ex UKIP voters supporting the Conservatives in this election believe that they will give a strong Brexit and reduce immigration. Those voters are at risk at the next election if they don’t meet their own pledge.
Labour are clearly trying to find a policy solution and expresses the concern of Labour voters on immigration without actually having to do anything about it.
Labour say they are committed to ending free movement of people, which is the right thing to do after the Brexit vote. It says that it will not discriminate people on country of origin, which is contradictory of their position of supporting membership of the EU during the referendum campaign.
The policy section sets out no numerical target on migration, probably meaning numbers will vary around current levels.
The manifesto pledges to increase the migration impact fund. By saying this, their policy seems to accept that migration has an impact on public services, but instead of dealing with levels at source, it will simply throw some money at the problem to ease the pressure.
The policy also shows a total lack of understanding of how migration is counted. It aims to take student migration out of the official numbers. Students, a vast majority of whom study for a greater period of 12 months. This defines them as Long Term migrants under the international definition, and that is precisely why they should be counted for. Taking students out of the number would reduce the net number, but the same amount of students will still be residing and entering in the UK year on year.
UKIP has led the way on the immigration debate and have always considered the most trusted to reduce net migration.
While I can’t knock UKIP’s intentions, its plan simply does not add up. It pledges ‘balanced migration’, setting a net target to zero over a 5 year period. It’s not a ‘ball-park’ figure, it’s an exact number.
To try and reduce net migration to precisely zero is virtually impossible. Yes, we have control over who immigrates to the UK, but we have no control over who emigrates, so how can UKIP pin point to an exact net migration target? Surely this is the basics.
Its biggest proposal is a freeze on unskilled labour for 5 years, which I support and wrote in its 2015 manifesto as migration spokesman. For UKIP to achieve zero net migration they will have to make further changes to student migration, family reunion and reduce the number of asylum seekers. None of this is achievable in the policy they have set out.
Sadly, UKIP’s policy has been poorly researched and is ill-prepared. Consequently this significantly dents their brand and lead on the immigration debate.
The Lib Dems make no specific pledge on reducing the overall net migration target.
It is clear the Lib Dems are the only party that has policies that will not only continue large-scale migration into the UK but will increase numbers. This reckless, blind approach to immigration will increase population growth, pressure on housing, schools, hospitals and other public services which are not accounted for in the remainder of their manifesto.
I’d argue, this is the worst positions of all parties.
The Lib Dems also propose to take students out of the numbers, which is a blatant attempt to massage the numbers, to give the impression that immigration has reduced.
This section of their manifesto also presents more detail on asylum immigration, including the reintroduction of the ‘Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme’ to 50,000.
Of course the biggest flaw in their immigration policy, is they want to keep the UK in the EU Single Market which means a continuation of free movement of people and an open border to the rest of the European Union.
The Green party do not consider immigration an important issue and have summed up their policy in 22 words… enough said.