Even if Britain opts to ‘Remain’ on Thursday night, the debate about immigration is likely to continue. Immigration has been a key theme throughout the referendum debate and ranks very highly in voter concerns according to a recent poll from Ipsos Mori. A large ‘Leave’ vote, even a losing ‘Leave’ vote will be interpreted as a sign of disillusionment with current government policies on immigration and a signal that the public want a more effective system.
Above all else the British public want an immigration system that they can trust and that they view as fair. A government that repeatedly fails to meet its own immigration targets will not gain trust. Consecutive Conservative manifestos have pledged to bring immigration to the tens of thousands, but according to the latest ONS stats they remain well off that target. Feasibly there is no way that this can be met. The longer the government stands by this promise, the more trust will decline. Politically it is hard for any government to renege on a commitment, but a more considered targeting system, possibly separating skilled and non skilled migration which could be hit would be smarter.
Fairness must also be at the heart of future immigration policy. Immigration has had a disproportionate effect on certain areas of the country and this has caused some strain. A proper migration fund set up to help areas with high migration would be astute. Increasingly this idea is gaining traction with Yvette Cooper the latest to back this move. A contributory welfare system where new arrivals have to pay in before they can take out and rigorous enforcement of the minimum wage ensuring British workers cannot be undercut are also other possible suggestions.
It is not racist to be worried about immigration, nor discuss the topic and there are many legitimate fears which should be tackled and will continue to exist after the referendum. The conversation though must be sensible and reasonable. These reform proposals would not solve the problem overnight but are a decent starting point for debate post-referendum in the event of a ‘Remain’ win. It is time to move from the somewhat hyperbolic language we have seen in recent weeks to the more sensible, reflective and reasonable.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Sky News