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Friday, June 14, 2024
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HomeMigration WatchYou’re right, Nigel, this is the Immigration Election

You’re right, Nigel, this is the Immigration Election

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WITH Nigel Farage back in charge of Reform UK and standing in Clacton, we finally have an election on the issue other parties and politicians have swept under the carpet – immigration, both legal and illegal.
 
According to Farage, it was the ‘dullest’ and ‘most boring’ election he’d ever known. Few would argue with him. His flash-flood arrival on the election stage has certainly invigorated a campaign laced with tedium and mediocrity, capped a week ago by avacuous TV debate between Sunak and Starmer replete with puerile jibes. Not so the debate two days later between Farage, Mordaunt and Rayner which only the seriously biased could not conclude Farage won hands down.

Farage has of course stood for parliament before (seven times) but we do believe he is going to get there this time. His impact on a convulsing Conservative Party, led by a prime minister who has shown himself to be out of his depth, is what’s really seizing attention. It’s all very well to grab a few headlines with vows to ‘clamp down’ on immigration or ‘to stop the boats’ but where were the robust policies and long-term strategy? As ever, chickens do eventually come home to roost, as Migration Watch  warned would happen when the loose points-based system was being devised some six years ago.
 
Farage has put his finger on what is fuelling so much of the frustration and cynicism towards politicians. They are fed up to the back teeth with promises made at election time only for them to be reneged upon once politicians are elected and behind the iron gates of the Palace of Westminster. Yes, sky-high immigration, both legal and illegal, is what’s angering prospective voters. They experience daily the immense strains on our public services, the housing market, national security and national unity.
 
Speaking to the press, Mr Farage framed this as an ‘immigration election’, backed by recent polling data and the broken promises of successive Tory governments. As we at Migration Watch have said over so many years, we simply don’t have enough homes, enough infrastructure, or enough money to deal with the government’s policy of Infinity Migrants. Moreover, we’re losing a sense of who we are as a nation, and immigration is making everything worse – like pouring petrol on a fire or salt on an open, bloody wound.
 
A week earlier, Mr Farage stirred controversy and attracted opprobrium from the usual quarters when he told Sir Trevor Phillips (who had himself made remarks along similar lines some years before) on Sky News that a ‘growing number’ of young Muslims in the UK don’t align with British values. He cited an April poll by the Henry Jackson Society showing that only a quarter of Muslims believed Hamas had committed murder and rape in its October 7 attack on Israel. Other polls, not mentioned by Farage, reveal concerning attitudes among British Muslims about free speech, the Holocaust, Sharia law, and even sympathies with terrorists.
 
Mr Farage argues that these issues are exacerbated by unchecked immigration. We at Migration Watch agree. If you don’t have control of your borders, you don’t have control of population growth. And if you don’t have control of this, you don’t have control of your country. It’s as simple as that. You can’t ‘integrate’ people with a few strokes of the Whitehall pen. It takes years and it’s a two-way street. New arrivals must show willing and be ready to accept the ways and values of the country they or their parents have chosen to live in.

What about the Tories? Right at the last minute, after parliament has been dissolved and no new policies can be formulated, the Tories have had a road-to-Damascus conversion to the policy of capping visas. Funny, that!
 
Under new plans, MPs will get a vote on annual government proposals aimed at steadily reducing numbers, based on recommendations from the expert Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). They are of course right to tackle out-of-control mass immigration with a cap. But shoving the onus on the MAC is a cop-out. Net migration well below 100,000 (Farage is calling for net zero) is absolutely the right approach. Such a policy objective will allow the planners and strategists to devise the necessary rules and measures. We at Migration Watch warned some years ago that without a cap on numbers, the points-based system would likely fall apart and lead to historic levels of legal migration. As I pointed out in a 2020 article for TCW: ‘Without a cap in place – at least until the economic situation is clearer – the numbers could increase very rapidly indeed and be very difficult to bring back under control. No cap on work permits and no requirement for advertising of jobs in the UK is a gamble that poses a huge threat to the prospects of British workers, at the worst possible time. They have every right to feel betrayed.’
 
We’re glad the Tories are changing their tune, but it makes you wonder: why not sooner? Mr Sunak sat on his hands for a year and a half, while clashing with cabinet colleagues such as Robert Jenrick and Suella Braverman, who were pushing for a cap all along. And why is he outsourcing this policy to the MAC, who will doubtless be encouraged to consult ‘stakeholders’ on what the numbers should be – NGOs, business groups, public sector lobbyists, and members of the higher education establishment? This happened with Sir Sajid Javid’s White Paper consultation in 2018, which led to the appallingly loose points-based system. The stakeholders consulted were from groups, organisations and vested interests overwhelmingly in favour of more immigration.

What about Labour? We haven’t heard much from Labour on legal migration. What they have said so far has largely focused on illegal migration with some asides, mostly in reaction to Tory policy pronouncements. They won’t stop the boats and they won’t smash the gangs. Their intention to speed up the processing of those already here will simply encourage more to come take the risk of crossing the Channel illegally to get here.

Criticising Sunak’s proposed cap, Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: ‘All they are doing now is rehashing failed announcements from David Cameron and Theresa May, while doing nothing to tackle the skills shortages and their failures in the economy and immigration system which have pushed net migration up.’

Theresa May’s cap on non-EU workers was a successful policy, maintaining high-skill numbers at around 20,000. The only reason we didn’t hit the ‘tens of thousands’ target promised by David Cameron was EU free movement, a stance Sir Keir has long supported. Secondly, Ms Cooper’s remark about job vacancies shows a misunderstanding of economics and immigration’s role in filling skills gaps, as highlighted by Migration Watch Executive Director Dr Mike Jones in a recent paper: ‘Encouraging immigration in response to shortages might hinder the natural adjustments that can occur in the labour market. For instance, economic theory suggests that when employers face labour shortages, they might choose to increase wages, enhance job conditions to attract more workers, or adjust their production methods to rely less on scarce workers (such as through automation or changing what they produce).’

Ultimately, immigration will not effectively solve job shortages because it often creates more job openings. Immigrants both work and consume goods in the economy, which boosts demand for things like food and housing and public services. So, if you bring in 1million immigrants to fill 1million job vacancies, you might end up with just as many vacancies again! And that’s precisely what has happened. The tried-and-tested way to fill a job ‘vacancy’ is to raise wages, improve job conditions or adopt new production techniques to rely less on low-skill labour.

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Alp Mehmet
Alp Mehmet
Chairman of Migration Watch UK, former British diplomat.

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