Britain will need a new immigration policy once we have left the European Union, concluded the transition and are no longer bound by EU rules on freedom of movement. Our new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who is himself the son of immigrants, has an opportunity to devise a new set of rules that are tough but humane, that serve the interests of British businesses, universities and the NHS, while also protecting our national security and community cohesion.
He should start by dropping the nonsensical net migration target. Net migration is calculated by subtracting the number of people who emigrate from the UK from the number of migrants who move here. But nobody cares how many British citizens decide to retire to Marbella each year. It is simply perverse for government to pursue a target which measures something that it cannot control.
It is control that the Home Secretary should put at the heart of the new immigration policy: control by Parliament. There should be an annual Parliamentary event, a bit like the Budget, when the Home Secretary presents the Immigration Control Statement. In the first of these, which should take place in 2019 after we have formally left the European Union, we should announce five new principles of immigration control: we should only allow economic migrants to move to the UK if they are filling a skills shortage and have a concrete job offer. Economic migrants should only be able to claim benefits and free non-emergency healthcare if they have worked in the UK and paid taxes here for “several years”. Family dependents should only be allowed to move to the UK if those family members who are already here are well off enough to support them. All newcomers should have to demonstrate “a reasonable mastery” of English.
We should also begin to roll out a digital identity system so that we can impose restrictions on migrants’ access to benefits and public services, without resorting to heavy-handed enforcement measures. The humiliating treatment of some members of the Windrush generation, who have as much right to be here as any of us, was scandalous. We need to find a way to identify and remove illegal immigrants that does not trap bona fide British citizens in its net.
The British people want to see immigration reduced but they are happy to see people move here if they are going to work hard and make a contribution to our society. As we leave the EU, we have a chance to restore confidence in our immigration system by getting it under control. We must seize it.
For more details of my immigration plan http://www.squaredeal.org.uk/square-deal-on-immigration-and-identity/