Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time to Scrap the Tory Migration Cap

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time to Scrap the Tory Migration Cap

Article excerpt

IT REMAINS a mystery why the Prime Minister has recommitted her party to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands a year. She didn't need to make this politically rash and economically illiterate move. She was not the author of the pledge; David Cameron made it in opposition.

She knows better than almost anyone that net migration the number of people arriving, minus the number leaving is not in the gift of government, subject as it is to the vagaries of the world economy. Moreover, this target has a perverse incentive, in that the more people you persuade to emigrate from the UK, the more likely you are to hit it.

So you would assume that Mrs May would jump at the chance to bury the pledge. That's what her Cabinet assumed; none of its senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief.

But no. Mrs May has kept digging. So, how to achieve this reduction? Brexiteers suggested leaving the EU would keep foreigners out. They never explained that of the net migration figure last year of 273,000, 164,000 people came from outside the EU. As David Willetts pointed out on this page yesterday, we already have levers to reduce their numbers, but have sensibly not pulled them.

To meet the pledge, the number of both EU and non-EU migrants will have to be reduced by around two thirds. How is that to be achieved? No one in government can identify the third we want and the two thirds we don't. Asked whether we want to stop bankers, builders, berry pickers or baristas coming from Europe, ministers are at a loss. The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, could not name a single sector that should have its supply of labour forcibly reduced. He knows that to do so would push up prices and hurt firms. Rohan Silva makes a similar point on the page opposite.

Falling unemployment Instead, ministers assert we need to train under-qualified British people to fill posts currently filled by over-qualified Europeans. …

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