The government delayed its Immigration White Paper for more than a year. Originally due last autumn, it was finally published yesterday.
You might have thought they were spending that time coming up with workable policies to fix our broken immigration system and restore public confidence. Instead, it turns out Tory ministers spent that time squabbling amongst themselves and failing to produce anything that will actually address the problems we face.
Far from ‘taking back control’, these immigration plans would wreck our public services, weaken our economy, and create chaos and confusion for British businesses.
Take our National Health Service. It relies not only on 10,000 EU doctors and 20,000 EU nurses, but also a further 14,000 clinical staff from the EU. Hospitals are already struggling to hire the staff they need – with 41,000 nursing vacancies in England alone – and making it harder to recruit from Europe will only make the problem much worse.
And what about care workers? There are 110,000 vacancies in social care: jobs that don’t pay close to the Tories’ £30,000 threshold for so-called “skilled workers”. So who’ll care for the sick and elderly?
And who’ll build the 300,000 homes a year Britain needs, without the 84,000 EU construction workers on an average salary of £26,000?
The government’s own report shows that migrants contribute far more to our economy and public services than they use. Without them, services will be cut, government debt will rise and economic growth will suffer – meaning fewer jobs and lower wages.
The proposal of a temporary visa programme to fill these lower-paid jobs would be bad for productivity and bad for integration.
Employers would have to recruit and train new people every year, lose them after 12 months, and then start all over again with someone new. And a constant churn of new temporary immigrants every year, without time for them to integrate into their communities, is not at all what Leavers wanted when they voted to ‘take back control’.
It’s also unworkable. Does anyone really believe that the Home Office will be able to cope with the task of processing hundreds of thousands of temporary visas and making sure people leave when they’re supposed to? It already can’t cope with managing non-EU migration, as demonstrated by the appalling Windrush scandal, as well as the less high-profile errors and delays inflicted on applicants all the time.
Putting an even bigger portion of the economy in the hands of the Home Office isn’t ‘taking back control’, it’s a recipe for chaos.
With this White Paper, the Tories are making a big show of ‘ending free movement’ while failing to actually get a grip on immigration. These policies will do nothing to secure our borders, fix the problems that caused the Windrush scandal, or make the common sense, compassionate changes for refugees and asylum seekers that have strong public support.
The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will secure our borders and restore confidence in the system by investing in an accountable Border Force and taking responsibility away from the discredited Home Office.
We will end the hostile environment that has seen countless people wrongfully deprived of their rights. We will lift the ban on asylum seekers working to give them a sense of dignity and more money, as well as enabling them to contribute to the Exchequer and saving taxpayers’ money.
And we will celebrate the many benefits that immigration brings to our communities and our economy.