THE BREXIT IMMIGRATION LIE MADE BY THERESA MAY AND DAVID CAMERON, WRITES MARK LITTLEWOOD

Mrs May finds herself in a real quandary over the Cameron Government’s farcical promise to reduce net immigration into the UK to under 100,000 a year
Mrs May finds herself in a real quandary over the Cameron Government’s farcical promise to reduce net immigration into the UK to under 100,000 a year
Theresa May has spent the past week visiting the chancelleries of Europe, negotiating with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande on the path to Brexit. But behind the diplomacy and photo opportunities ticks the time-bomb of the absurd immigration target she set when she was Home Secretary.
Mrs May finds herself in a real quandary over the Cameron Government’s farcical promise to reduce net immigration into the UK to under 100,000 a year.
As a new Prime Minister taking office without the mandate of her own General Election victory, she can’t throw every inherited policy pledge out of the window – especially when she was the Cabinet Minister in charge of the policy area. But this foolish commitment epitomises all the worst elements of modern British policy-making.
It’s overly specific, attention-grabbing, unenforceable nonsense, littered with negative economic consequences and doomed to lead to increased anger and disillusionment among the voting public.
Writing as someone who backed Brexit, and who heads a free market think-tank beloved by Margaret Thatcher, I was always concerned the goal of cutting immigration and ending the free movement of productive workers from the EU while retaining unfettered access to the continent’s marketplace was a mirage.
Soon, the voters will also come to realise this.
Last week, the incoming Home Secretary Amber Rudd tried to back away from the arbitrary target, seemingly backed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – only to be slapped down by No 10. It would be a con trick on the British people to pretend net immigration levels can ever fall to some specific number without us suffering profound economic damage.
Put bluntly, critics will brand it a big lie. We need immigrant labour. Those of us who backed Brexit but believed that immigration can be an enormously positive force always understood that. Those who just wanted to wave around absurd targets and numbers on immigration really do have to wake up to economic reality.
To appreciate the absurdity, you only have to look at the net migration figures for 2015.
Out of the total of more than 300,000 migrants, around half came from outside the EU – meaning we already had the power to cut that back if we had chosen to. But we didn’t. We needed them.
It is farcical to believe a set number of immigrants is absolutely fine but a slightly higher number is suddenly a problem.
It’s one thing to worry about the type of immigrants, but that’s very different from worrying about the absolute number.
If successful, tax-paying and entrepreneurial people want to relocate to the UK, we are cutting off our nose to spite our face if we turn them away.
Even if the Government is crazy enough to want to refuse entry to top-rate tax-paying talent from abroad, there is no way they can meet some dreamt up, illogical target of ensuring our population only grows at a rigid, set rate. Or at least, there is no way they can do so if we want to live in anything approaching a free and fair society. Unlike the dictatorships of North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet bloc, liberal Western governments don’t prevent their citizens from leaving the country.
France's President Francois Hollande, right, and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May give a press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris
France’s President Francois Hollande, right, and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May give a press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris
If you’ve spent the past few years working or even travelling in the southern hemisphere and want to come back home, surely we are not going to stop you?
Since 2008, between 75,000 and 100,000 Britons have been immigrating back into the UK from abroad every year. In theory, we could tell British passport holders that if they want to leave for anything longer than a short family holiday, they should buy a one-way ticket, because they won’t be allowed to return.
But unless the Government is willing to take that ultra-draconian step, then, once again, a coach and horses has been driven through their ability to control net migration figures.
The new Government needs to get away from the cop-out argument that we need to cap the total number of immigrants because we ‘can’t cope’ with the inflow. You’ll often hear people complaining schools and hospitals are at breaking point, or that our transport network can’t handle the tide of new arrivals.
Theresa May has spent the past week visiting the chancelleries of Europe, negotiating with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande on the path to Brexit
Theresa May has spent the past week visiting the chancelleries of Europe, negotiating with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande on the path to Brexit
Intriguingly though, the areas of our society and economy that seem incapable of handling a growing population all have one thing in common – they are run by the public sector. I have never heard Tesco complain it has too many customers or that it can’t deal with the pressure of more people wanting groceries.
Privately run pubs, bars and restaurants don’t tear their hair out because more people want to eat and drink. The problem isn’t more people arriving in Britain wanting more goods and services – it’s the incompetent way the state sector provides them.
Theresa May’s new administration would be better advised to look at how we deliver state healthcare, welfare and schooling – and what immigrants need to do to qualify for these services – rather than to try and fail to keep a tally of those entering and leaving our ports and airports.
We urgently need our politicians to communicate the essential truth that immigration is, overall, a very positive thing for the British economy.
This doesn’t mean every immigrant is a hard-working, tax-paying addition to the country. Every barrel contains some bad apples, and these need to be weeded out. But the picture in aggregate is a rosy one. According to a UCL study, migrants from richer EU countries contribute 64 per cent more in taxes than they claim in benefits and even those from the poorer European nations contribute 12 per cent more than they claim.
If your country is a growing, successful and peaceful place, don’t be surprised or appalled that it attracts talent from across the globe. If there are problems with some people coming here just to live off benefits or difficulties with certain communities failing to integrate, then tackle these problems; don’t just apply a squeeze on numbers.
If our Prime Minister sticks to the impossible, contradictory and doomed target of keeping net immigration under 100,000 per annum, she may be able to maintain a very short-term illusion of seeming to be tough.
But when the target is continually missed – and it will be – she will just stoke up more anti-migrant sentiment among those who want a sensible approach to this issue. Instead of plucking a number out of thin air, she should set down some key principles for a post-Brexit immigration policy.
If Britons were confident incoming workers wouldn’t be able to access a range of services or welfare benefits until they had contributed a certain amount of tax, and that they would also integrate into society, we’d have a more balanced approach to the issue. 

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