Monday 21st May 2018
• The usually excellent Aditya Chakrabortty’s outrage over the immigration debate conflates the duplicitous use of this issue by leading Brexiteers with a misinterpretation of what really concerns people. Accusing the vast majority who want controls on immigration as being anti-migrant and racist is unacceptable. As is denying that the rapid increase in immigration has made it more difficult to cope with stresses on social infrastructure and that it will continue to do so even when austerity is swept away. Also worrying was the anti-internationalist acceptance of continuing to take Indian doctors and skilled eastern Europeans “educated at someone else’s expense”.
For the left to regain credibility it must rethink migration and make a progressive case for limiting “new, large-scale, permanent migration”. New makes it clear that curbing future levels of migration involves no changes for those already legally resident in the country, such as the Windrush generation and those from the EU. Permanent has the caveat that foreign students are welcome to study here and workers fill vacancies here, but only for a specified period. Crucially, the UK must train its own population to prevent the shameful long-term theft of doctors and nurses from the poorer counties which originally paid for their education. There will also be the need for some exceptions, such as genuine marriage partners, civil partners or reunited family members.
East Twickenham, Middlesex
Sun 20 May 2018
The immigration conundrum
Nick Cohen is right that those who oppose a hard Brexit need to say what they would do about immigration (“We recognise the grievances of the left behind. But we have no solutions”, Comment). Central to this has to be the acceptance of the crashingly obvious – that most people want stricter controls over immigration. This could be achieved in a progressive manner if the goal were one of minimising “new, large-scale, permanent migration”.
What makes this approach progressive is that “new” makes it clear that curbing immigration involves no changes for those already legally resident, such as the Windrush generation and those from the EU. “Permanent” has the caveat that foreign students are welcome to study here and that workers fill vacancies here, but only for a specified period. Crucially, the recipient countries must rapidly train enough doctors and nurses, for example, from their own population to prevent the shameful theft of such vital staff from the poorer countries that originally paid for their education. Given there is bound to be the need for some exceptional academics and wealth generators, as well as genuine marriage or civil partners or reunited family members to settle permanently, then their numbers might be roughly in balance with the numbers of people emigrating.