Immigration and it’s starring role in the upcoming Election
It will not be long before citizens of the UK take to the polls and cast their votes, which will take into account an issue important to not only themselves but to anyone seeking office – immigration.
The rise of UK in-bound immigration and its correlation with public concern has been growing stronger for a number of years. Consequently, politicians have made efforts to utilise this to their advantage. Unfortunately, this has caused immigration to attract some highly negative associations. So, what do the four main political parties propose they will do with regard to immigration, should they be elected in May?
When initially elected to power, David Cameron pledged to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands by the time of the next parliament. To attempt to achieve this, the government enacted a number of measures designed to limit residence and work opportunities for those from outside the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) and Switzerland.
As we are all now more than aware, the Conservatives were unable to materialize their promises of migration reduction, with the net figure now at almost 250,000. Despite having reduced migration from outside the EU, the Conservatives’ efforts to reduce migration from within have been futile. If re-elected, Cameron has promised to ameliorate the UK’s relationship with the EU.
If re-elected, the Conservatives have pledged to do the following, amongst other things:
• Increase the length of re-entry bans/’cooling-off periods’ for EU nationals who abuse the UK immigration system
• Introduce a requirement whereby one must be resident in the UK for 4 years before being permitted access to benefits and social housing
• Amend the free movement rights of newer EU member states, decreasing them, until their economies are up to a more satisfactory level
• Renounce Sponsor Licenses belonging to businesses who fail to prohibit migrants from overstaying the period of leave they have been granted
• Demand that EU job-seekers depart from the UK if they cannot find work within 6 months of arriving in the UK
Cameron’s proposals to renegotiate key terms of our membership with the EU have been heavily criticised. Introducing limits on EU migration is illegal under present law and would involve an in-depth treaty amelioration among all EU members.
Labour’s propositions, should they be in power post May 2015, consist of:
• Introducing more stringent border controls with in-depth entry and exit checks
• Requiring those who interact with the public in the course of their employment to have better English language skills than at present
• Introducing a requirement whereby large companies hiring migrant workers must offer apprenticeships
• Taking actions to encourage the best and brightest to come to the UK
Miliband wants to remain within the EU. Despite this, he most definitely would not be against suggesting changes to EU treaties with the aim of lessening free movement between EU members states and the UK. He has stated that if such changes were to take place, they could entail, (i) imposing time periods on new member states before their citizens were granted full rights of residence to the UK, (ii) annulment of certain benefits, and (iii) restrictions placed upon migrants accessing social service benefits.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has detailed a number of changes the Lib Dems would like to implement, including:
• Introducing stricter entry and exit checks
• Formulating a barrier for immigration if numbers of migrants become too large
• Developing more investment opportunities for investor migrants
• Reforming EU free movement laws in line with the difference in wealth between member states
Ukip are of the opinion that immigration is ‘crippling local services in the UK’ and urgently needs to be restrained to ease the burden on education and housing systems. Despite claiming that it acknowledges the benefits brought by small amounts of controlled immigration, the majority of Ukip’s proposals entail impractical, anti-immigration suggestions, such as:
• Raising the level of English language that needs to be met before permanent residence can be awarded, as well as imposing a 10 year residence requirement
• Outright leaving the EU
• Limiting UK in-bound net migration for employment purposes to 50,000 people a year
• Not allowing access to migrant benefits to anyone that has lived and supported themselves in the UK for less than 5 years
• Increasing the number of staff at UK border entry points by 2,500 people
The above is just a small selection of Ukip’s many immigration related propositions but as we hope you can see, they would essentially amount to a complete reconstruction of the UK immigration system, be incompatible with many EU rules and regulations, and thus be massively damaging to the UK.
Where does this leave us?
We would argue that despite rising public concern surrounding immigration in the last 15 years, there is unfortunately no real link between this increase and the understanding of the issues amongst the general public.
For instance, as demonstrated by a survey carried out by one of the leading market research companies in the UK, (i) when asked who they drew associations with when they thought about who an immigrant might be, respondents were least likely to think of students, despite them being the largest group of migrants within the UK, and (ii) interestingly, the same group of respondents thought that asylum-seekers were the largest group of immigrants, when in fact, they are the smallest.
Taking into account the above, it is imperative that politicians refocus their strategy, move away from short-term political goals centered around the next election, properly inform the public of how things really are, and shift their focus onto achieving more realistic, long-term goals that will benefit the UK as a whole.