May’s immigration offer: empty promises and wilful damage to the economy

Theresa May’s immigration offer isn’t just another empty promise, it’s tantamount to wilful damage of the economy.

The Tories have released a new ad reaffirming Theresa May’s commitment to controlling immigration. It says that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is “too big a risk” for the immigration system because he doesn’t believe that too many people from parts of the EU have come to live and work in the UK. Actually, many people don’t. Many of us value the friendships and contribution that people from the EU have made to our society.

But the ad is a divisive call to people who do think that too many people have. It’s an ad worthy of UKIP. The ad doesn’t just stoke immigration fears, it also shows what little regard the Tories have for all the EU nationals who have come to Britain and contributed to our society.

Of course, the Tories haven’t bothered to offer any evidence to support immigration from the EU being too great. They have, however, promised twice to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” and failed twice. So it’s hard to say if they even genuinely believe it’s too much.

Evidence from businesses and economists actually suggest that reducing immigration will damage the economy. For instance, in a comparison of post-Brexit outcomes, the IFS Green Budget found that a scenario whereby the government implemented immigration restrictions would do the most damage to the economy. This is echoed by many businesses across the country who have highlighted the importance of of free movement to the UK. For example, in a recent article about investment funding for British start-ups, Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw said that “access to talent” was a bigger issue for them than financial incentives.

Indeed, there is evidence that because of Britain’s ageing economy and our (currently) successful economy, businesses are already experiencing a worker and skills shortage. A growing economy needs workers. And signs are that as a result of the weak pound, a growing anti-immigration climate (not at all helped by the ad) and Theresa May’s refusal to guarantee the rights of EU nationals, the labour shortage is getting worse. It’s also hurting our much valued public services including the NHS.

As we reported in a previous article, a labour shortage risks the country’s reputation for business and future investment with it. After all, the country is less appealing to an investor who thinks their business interests could be at risk because of a shortage of suitable workers. The potential outcome of this is fewer jobs.

Economists are already forecasting a slowdown in the jobs market as a result of a Brexit slowdown in the economy. A report by forecasting group EY ITEM Club said that the country is likely to see the unemployment rate rise over the next few years. It states that with the UK economy starting to slow, “this will lead to reduced demand for workers”.

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