For too long, the development of immigration policy has been driven by ad hoc reactions to political and operational crises, operating independently of wider social and economic ambitions. The net migration target pursued by the Home Office has forced the Government to crudely drive down overall numbers, often in contradiction to the objectives of other departments, on the basis of unreliable data and irrespective of the social impacts of its policies. With the immigration system coming under increasing scrutiny, now is the time for a comprehensive rethink to ensure the rules meet the needs of our economy. A new immigration strategy for post-Brexit Britain should be designed to address some of our country’s core economic weaknesses: including addressing geographical imbalances, boosting innovation, halting the stagnation of real wages, and tackling the trade deficit.
In this discussion paper, we focus on the key elements of a new immigration strategy targeted at addressing some of the UK’s core economic problems. Our starting point is that the criteria used to guide the UK’s strategy on immigration should seek to complement and reinforce efforts to address our broader economic weaknesses.
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