Tory MP Anna Soubry today launched a passionate defence of immigration as she hit out at those who want to end free movement to the UK.
The Remain-backing MP is refusing to shift from her pre-referendum position that leaving the EU would be bad for the UK economy, and claimed the British public has been duped by “myths” from Leave campaigners.
The former Business Minister held nothing back at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference as she argued immigration was good for the UK, and it was an unfounded fear of migrants that fuelled the Brexit vote.
Her comments came just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced there would be a crack down on overseas students by introducing a two-tier visa system based on the quality of universities and courses.
The CBI’s John Hardie was disappointed with the announcement, and said:“The UK’s universities are a crown jewel in supporting innovation, growth and skills development. Many courses are sustained here in the UK because we can attract students and faculty from around the world. The Government must tread carefully on any changes to student immigration to make sure we don’t undermine this critical sector for national prosperity.”
Soubry waded in on the issue at the Bright Blue fringe event on whether the UK’s immigration system is working for British businesses, and said: “I would take students out of the figures, it is the stuff of complete nonsense, ordinary people when they talk about migrant workers they don’t think students and I welcome overseas students.
“I would almost have unfettered numbers of overseas students because they go home full of great goodwill for our country and that helps us to trade with them in the future.”
Here are more of Soubry’s key points:
On the...TRUTH ABOUT IMMIGRATION
“When we leave the EU there will be three huge myths that suddenly the British people we realise they have been conned and tricked on. Firstly there won’t be £350m going every week to the NHS, secondly there won’t be better, freer trade, and thirdly there will not be a reduction in immigration. Because if you are going to try and work out how to control immigration - and I make the point that when people talk about control… what they really mean is less - how you work it out, fix the figures, you will talk to business. And business will say we want the people to fill the jobs. And what that means we will actually see more people come in from non-EU countries, after all that’s what Mr Farage promised us.”
“I don’t think you will see a reduction because somebody has to do the jobs and the work.”
...THE BRITISH WORK ETHIC
“The simple truth of it is that somewhere in the region of five per cent of migrant workers claim benefit, as opposed to more than double that from British born people. It’s often a point that’s worth making.”
“The truth and a reality is we still have a section of our society who don’t have the same work ethic as the majority and we need to fix that.”
“This thing about a work ethic, we don’t talk about it because it’s difficult territory and as soon as you start to say it people say ‘Are you saying all British people are lazy?’ Of course I’m not saying that. But when you get into the real world and on Thursday I was with one of my businesses in my constituency. They process food, they employ about 200 people, 95% are EU workers, so I directly tackled them to answer the arguments that people like Isabel [Oakeshott] and her newspaper [The Daily Mail] put forward and I said: ‘Why do you take from the EU? Why aren’t you employing more people from my constituency in Nottingham?’ They said: ‘We’ve tried that. We deliberately, specifically targeted to employ British workers.’ And this is an uncomfortable statistic. They finally found 15, almost half didn’t last more than two days, and they still have three. We have to understand we have a cohort of people who are not as well educated as they should be.”
...FEAR OF IMMIGRANTS WHERE THERE AREN’T ANY
“Let’s get right down to this. There are conflations here between people who live in areas where they have hardly seen a black or brown face and hardly any EU migrants and those areas which have.”
“Sunderland is not known for its large immigrant population. There are parts of Sunderland which have barely seen one. This is true, this is not made up. Look at the figures.”
“Areas where they feel forgotten, neglected and disillusioned and they blame immigrants who they’ve barely seen and experienced for their woes and their disaffection.”
“When you have stood talking to your constituents… and people say to you in the referendum debate ‘I’m voting out’ ‘Why is that?’ ‘All these immigrants’ ‘Ok, don’t have many here in Stapleford’. ‘No they’re all coming over’. What did they mean, they meant that photograph by Mr Farage, that’s what they meant. And then you say to them: ‘If they’re coming here they’re coming here to work’. And the next sentence was: ‘But the truth is Anna, we’ve got too many Muslims here and it’s time it stopped.’ And that saddened me.
...HYPOCRISY OF PEOPLE WHO ‘WANT THEIR COUNTRY BACK’
“Some of these people are the ones who say: ‘I don’t like all that foreign muck, what are we having for tea tonight? Chicken tikka masala’ and then go off for an Italian, but then say: ‘We don’t want all these foreigners’.”
...WHO IS TO BLAME FOR BREXIT
Those people who feel the most disillusioned and disaffected live in Labour areas with Labour councillors and Labour MPs and it has to be said that they as their representatives have to hugely and badly let them down as they are safe seats and they have taken them for granted, like they did in Scotland and they are now feeling the consequences.
“We’ve now gone from one extreme where people couldn’t have a debate about immigration for fear of being called racist and now you go to the other extreme where people like me want to make a positive case and actually take it on, and you say ‘oh, you’re patronising poor people’. I haven’t used any of these words at all, I’m trying to have an open and honest debate and that means you have to be honest about your emotions and you have to take on the emotions of other people.”