The UK election is less than a week away, and as expected, immigration is a key issue in the main parties’ manifestos.
In fact, with Brexit a mere two years away, immigration looks to be one of the most divisive topics in this snap election. After the election, immigration solicitors will be scrambling to get the best results for their clients before any rules that may be detrimental to their case are brought in.
To help you understand each parties’ stance on immigration, this article breaks down the promises made and examines the main parties’ past views on immigration to see if their 2017 commitments are consistent with what has been said in the past.
Theresa May just cannot let the below 100,000 immigration target go. Despite failing to meet this goal for the past seven years, the Prime Minister has promised to reduce net migration by this figure in the next five years.
On the campaign trial, she has stated: "What we need to do is have proper control of our immigration and, of course, we are going to be able to put in rules for people coming from the EU to the UK once we leave the European Union.
"I want to ensure we are controlling migration because too high uncontrolled migration puts pressure on our public services, but it also lowers wages at the lower end of the income scale."
Other Conservative Party manifesto promises on immigration include:
- Reduce annual net migration to a “sustainable” level in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands
- “For the first time in decades,” control immigration from the European Union with new immigration policy
- Toughen up requirements for student visas, include students in immigration quotas and expect them to leave the country when studies are finished
- Independent consultation to better align the visa system with Britain’s modern industrial strategy
- Double the immigration Skills Charge from £1,000 to £2,000 on companies employing Tier 2 migrant workers with a UK Sponsor Licence
- Increase the minimum income threshold for Spouse Visas which already stands at £18,600
In her 2015 speech to the Conservative Party conference, Theresa May left us in no doubt about her views on migrants. She stated that millions of people from poor countries wanted to come to the UK and Britain should focus on giving aid rather than asylum to refugees.
Mrs. May also blamed immigration for creating a less “cohesive” society, putting pressure on public services and driving down wages, all of which have been debunked by academic research.
Following the address, Simon Walker, the then Director General of the Institute of Directors attacked the speech as one that peddled “nonsense myths.” “We are astonished by the irresponsible rhetoric and pandering to anti-immigration sentiment from the Home Secretary. It is yet another example of the Home Secretary turning away the world’s best and brightest, putting internal party politics ahead of the country, and helping our competitor economies instead of our own,” he said at the time.
“The myth of the job-stealing-immigrant is nonsense. Immigrants do not steal jobs, they help fill vital skill shortages and, in doing so, create demand and more jobs. If they did steal jobs, we wouldn’t have the record levels of Employment we currently do”.
When asked about Labour’s immigration policy, leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would introduce a border control system "based on needs of the economy" and family reunion.
The Labour leader also said he is "not going to make false promises" on immigration numbers.
Other commitments include:
- fair rules and reasonable management of migration rather than "bogus" immigration targets
- Scrap the minimum income thresholds for Spouse Visas
- Creation of a Migrant Impact Fund to support public services in host communities. It will be funded by Visa levies and a contributory element from residence visas for high net worth individuals
The Labour Government under Tony Blair has widely been blamed for the rise in immigration. In 1997, Mr. Blair’s first year in office, net migration had been 48,000, but it rose extremely rapidly over the next 12 months, almost trebling to 140,000 in 1998. It was never to fall below 100,000 again.
The rise in numbers was mainly caused by an increase in asylum applications. However, it was in 2004 when the real increase began. That was the year ten more countries – eight of which had been part of the eastern bloc during the cold war – became members of the EU. In what is now generally accepted as a miscalculation, the Labour government did not put any restrictions on the number of people entering Britain from these ten countries, which at the time it was entitled to do.
The result was a colossal jump in immigration from Eastern European countries, a situation which arguably led to Britain voting to leave the EU.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party that has committed to holding a second referendum on Brexit. They have also stated that they are committed to the free movement of EU nationals.
Like the Labour party, the Lib Dems manifesto also wants to remove students from official migration statistics and allow high-skilled immigration to be a possibility for sectors which need certain skill sets.
They have also said they want the re-establishment of the "Dubs" child refugee scheme and to welcome 50,000 Syrian refugees into the country over a period of five years.
The Green Party
Not surprisingly, the UK Independence Party is completely against the free movement of EU nationals coming into the UK. In addition, it has pledged to bring in a “one in, one out” system to reduce net migration to zero over the next five years.
The battle for the British Government is between Labour and the Conservatives. Both are committed to Brexit, but under Labour, a ‘softer’ exit from the EU is being promised.
We will have a better idea of the future of Britain’s immigration law on 9th June.
OTS Solicitors is regarded as one of the best immigration law firms in the UK. If you need advice on any immigration law matters, please phone our office on 0207 936 9960 to talk to one of our dedicated immigration lawyers.
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Posted on: Monday, 05 June, 2017