Updated Nov 2016
The UK’s approach to immigration should go beyond simply reducing numbers. This should be a robust, secure and fair system that allows the country to be selective, so that migrants coming to the UK have skills that complement those of British workers and integrate successfully into the labour market and their local community.
A smarter approach to migration targets
The Government’s single net migration target is a blunt policy that groups together all forms of migration. It therefore hampers Britain’s ability to pursue a strategic approach to migration policy.
It should be replaced by a series of targets for different forms of migration. This would enable Britain to facilitate beneficial forms of migration which enjoy strong public support, such as international students, but to limit excessive flows where there is a case for doing so.
A differentiated target would also help improve the quality of the debate on migration because it would link policies to specific national aims.
Security for migrants is sound policy
The Brexit vote has bred a climate of insecurity for EU migrants.
This uncertainty undermines integration, damages Britain’s global reputation and poses a serious short-term risk to employers like the NHS which depend on migrant workers.
We believe that EU citizens who had settled in Britain before the date of the referendum should be given automatic indefinite leave to remain, and that those working for the NHS should be offered free British citizenship. European children who are being educated here should also be able to become British citizens for free. EU migrants should not lose their right to vote in local and devolved elections when the UK exits the EU.
Everyone who has obtained indefinite leave to remain should be eligible to vote in local elections, as is already the case for Commonwealth and EU migrants.
To ensure Britain can still compete internationally, people with globally competitive skills should be able to access citizenship faster for an extra fee. Other people who already live here and contribute to the UK economy, but for whom the high cost of citizenship is prohibitive, should be offered a citizenship loan to enable them to naturalise.
Promoting integration so everyone benefits
Migrants who don’t integrate into the host community contribute less socially and economically, and are more likely to destabilise communities, than those who do.
Migration policies should therefore be designed to incentivise integration. The opposite is currently the case. The pursuit of the net migration target is driving policies to ensure migrants leave the UK, a strategy which by definition undermines integration.
Local areas should actively address pressures, foster good community relations and provide targeted support to the most isolated groups.