Immigration in the Manifestos

02 Jun 2017

With Utopia just a ballot box and swingometer away I’ve been looking at the manifestos and wish I could capture and retain their boundless confidence. This is not  an analysis or even a summary of what’s in the manifestos; it’s an unvarnished note of what’s caught my eye in the context of immigration law and practice.

The Conservative Party will protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and of British nationals in the EU. It also promises to double the recently introduced Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 per annum per migrant worker. The revenue will be invested in training UK workers. The Immigration Health Surcharge (currently £200 per annum) will be raised to £600. It would appear that the Conservatives seem to have understood that businesses need a more nuanced approach to immigration policy. For example, their manifesto says that a Conservative government will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to come up with recommendations for better aligning the current rules with “modern industrial strategy”.

The Labour Party has also committed itself to protecting the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK and securing reciprocal rights for British citizens in the EU. Labour goes on to acknowledge that Brexit means an end to freedom of movement and it seems to indicate that it will develop a new immigration system based on skills. It will identify labour and skills shortages (note, labour and skills) then match this to sponsorship and visas.  It seems to imply it will also regulate to prevent migrant workers bringing their families with them.  The Labour Party promises to replace the minimum income threshold on applications leading to settlement (currently £18,600pa) with a simple ban on recourse to public funds and it will resurrect the Migrant Impact Fund.  

The Liberal Democrats go further than either the Conservatives or Labour on the rights of EU citizens. They will secure EU citizens rights and preserve existing rights of free movement for European citizens. The Liberal Democrats will also emphasis the positive aspects of immigration as a way of addressing hate crime. They want strict border controls and an adequately funded Border Force to police entry to this country by “irregular routes”. The Liberal Democrats also indicate a preference for a skills-based approach to immigration policy. They promise to continue to allow high skilled migrants to come to work in key sectors of our economy and in particular they promise an annual debate in Parliament on skill and labour market shortfalls.

The Green Party will guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in this country. It will also retain freedom of movement and guarantee the rights of young people to study and live in the EU through arrangements  such as the EU’s Erasmus scheme.  In the context of the Greens notion of a safer world they promise us  “a humane immigration and asylum system that recognises and takes responsibility for Britain’s ongoing role in causing the flow of migrants worldwide”.

Of course there are other parties and other promises. My hope is simply that our elected representatives remember they’re not just setting policies; they’re dealing with peoples lives.