Please let there be no more immigration ‘caps’

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May 3, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith

net migration

How do make a well-trained Canadian GP leaving the UK and going back to Canada seem like a ‘good’ thing? How do you make a well-trained expat civil engineer returning to the UK from Abu Dhabi seem like a ‘bad’ thing. You impose an arbitrary immigration ‘cap’ is how you do it.

Of the many mistakes David Cameron made as Conservative Party leader, one of the biggest, by far, because he was always held hostage to it and it was always impossible to deliver, was his commitment to ‘cap’ net immigration (people who come in – people who leave) to the tens of thousands each year. Theresa May was lumbered with this policy as Home Secretary (and blamed for not delivering it) and worst of all was how it could be used by the Leave campaign during the EU Referendum to point out who immigration cannot be controlled whilst the UK is in the EU.

Noises from around the Conservative Party suggest that the manifesto for the election will still commit the party to that cap. If so, this is a massive mistake, and it isn’t just because of it making the Government hostages to fortune on the issue. It is because it may not be good for the country.

Once the UK leaves the EU, and assuming it also leaves the Single Market, it may well be able to ‘control’ immigration into the country. However, it cannot control emigration out of the country. Trying to deliver this ‘cap’ means that, like I said at the start of this blog, the entry of well-trained immigrants would be ‘bad’ and the exit of well-trained Brits or foreign nationals would be ‘good’, and that surely doesn’t work. Nor does counting foreign students (who bring a lot of money in tuition fees in addition to possibly providing productive graduates to our economy) as immigrants.

The thing about immigration, and this is what the more sensible people in the Leave campaign have tried to explain, often being shouted down by the more virtue-signalling hordes opposing them – is that ‘controlling’ it doesn’t always mean decreasing it. Diane James – the former UKIP leader (for 18 days) pointed out in a speech to my school recently that controlling immigration could, for instance, involve the Government finding out what the country needs and ‘recruiting’ them into the country, and net migration could even go UP in those circumstances.

The whole point of leaving the EU is about taking back control. Taking back control does not mean limiting yourself to an arbitrary target that takes no account of the country’s needs. So I hope there is no cap, and, quite frankly, so should anyone who has to serve in the next Conservative government.

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