Tory and Tory media hypocrisy over immigration
Tories accuse Labour of not making cutting immigration a priority. But if it’s a priority for the Tories, the economy can’t be.
Today, Theresa May used a leak of a draft Labour policy paper to lambast the party for secretly wanting “uncontrolled immigration”. The leaked paper, which was seen and reported by Tory-leaning press including the Telegraph and Daily Mail contains a proposal for a visa scheme for people looking for “low-skilled, unskilled and seasonal work” in the UK. Even if it was official policy, it doesn’t constitute a secret plan for “uncontrolled immigration” like May suggests.
The Independent reports that the leaked paper proposes bringing back the Tier 3 visa, which had originally been introduced by the Labour government in 2008. The scheme hoped to attract foreign workers to Britain to do low-paid jobs that employers were struggling to find enough British workers for. However, it was subsequently scrapped following an influx of workers from Eastern Europe.
Labour responded to the reports saying that whilst the paper was indeed genuine, it was just one of a number of “discussion documents” that were not official policy. Labour’s actual manifesto pledge on immigration is for “managed migration” but is so far unclear on how it would be managed. If anything, the leak should hearten us all that Labour is at least considering immigration proposals.
All we’ve had from the Tories is a repeated pledge to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” with no target date for achieving it and no plans of how they propose to do that. As the Evening Standard reports, Tory government ministers have failed to say where cuts in immigration should fall. This New Statesman piece also reflects the government’s changing position on reducing immigration.
The Tories say that the leaked paper shows that cutting immigration isn’t a priority for Labour. But it looks very much like the Tories don’t think it should be a priority either. A big hint is their failure to meet their “tens of thousands” target in the seven years they’ve been in power. And despite having full control of immigration from non-EU countries, they haven’t even been able to cut net migration from outside the EU to the “tens of thousands”. Seems like the Tories secretly want “uncontrolled immigration” too.
Here’s a couple of tweets showing just how hypocritical the Tory-supporting press have been on the leak.
Policy described here is *precisely* that repeatedly floated by government Ministers. Telegraph displaying utter contempt for its readers. https://t.co/ASmpaWakv3
— Jonathan Portes (@jdportes) 30 May 2017
— LBC (@LBC) 31 May 2017
Should Theresa May return to Number 10 on June 9, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find the leaked proposal or something similar in their immigration plans when they finally publish them. After all, they’ve already adopted some of Labour’s old policies such as the energy price freeze. This is despite lambasting them previously on it. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the same papers criticising Labour have a change of heart on the policy should it be introduced by the Tories.
Of course, it could be that, this time around, the Tories do make it a priority and introduce policies to cut net migration as per their target. But evidence suggests that this would damage the economy. So if it is a Tory priority, the economy can’t be.
Reducing immigration risks reducing the economy & increasing unemployment
Meanwhile, for businesses, the Tory pledges for walking away with “no deal” in Brexit talks and a cut in immigration to the “tens of thousands” are the most damaging. Doubling the charge for each migrant worker would also be bad. One employee told the Financial Times that the proposals “went down like a bucket of cold sick.”
Whilst it’s easy in election campaigning mode to make populist promises such as drastically cutting net migration, it’ll prove much harder to do after the election. Not least because industries across the country say they are already experiencing a worker and skills shortage. Evidence direct from businesses as well as economic research suggests Britain needs immigration and that cutting it as the Tories propose to do risks damaging the economy. OBR estimates that cutting net migration could cost £6bn a year and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) found that meeting Theresa May’s target would reduce GDP by between 1.5% and 3% by 2025.
The case for immigration isn’t about abstract altruism but British self-interest. By plugging skills gaps in businesses, immigration safeguards the jobs of British workers in those firms.
Barbara Roche, chair of The Migration Matters Trust
A new report by The Migration Matters Trust said that May’s target could actually increase unemployment from 1.6m to 3.1m. Their research looked at migration and employment figures over the last decade and found a correlation between both. The research suggests that lower levels of migration would result in an economic contraction. And that this would ultimately mean fewer jobs for British workers too. Speaking about the report, The Migration Matters Trust chair Barbara Roche said “the case for immigration isn’t about abstract altruism but British self-interest. By plugging skills gaps in businesses, immigration safeguards the jobs of British workers in those firms”.
The latest immigration figures show that net migration is already falling – primarily because of an increase in numbers of Brits and EU citizens leaving the UK. Writing for UK in a Changing Europe, Professor Jonathan Portes said the figures show that the UK has become a less attractive place to live. He adds that whilst it may be true that Britain needs migrants, we may not get them. This is because “immigrants have to choose us”. And as part of the EU, Britain has attracted “relatively well-educated, skilled migrants, working in jobs at all skill levels”. Since the referendum, we’ve managed to cut immigration before imposing any restrictions. But we’ve also become a country that’s a less attractive place to live.