Wednesday, January 1, 2014

UK Government Divided On Immigration

Britain’s current coalition government is facing a huge division within its ranks, with the latest argument centring around the UK’s immigration policy. The Government is made up of the right-wing Conservative party and the left-of-centre Liberal Democrats, a pairing which has already proved to be uncomfortable for both parties. The Conservatives are keen to appease many British people who fear that immigration is ‘out of control’ in the UK- a wildly exaggerated myth. While on the other hand, the Liberal Democrats are, generally, a pro-European and pro-immigration party, so it’s easy to see how troubles between the two could occur.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, plans to cap immigration to the UK at 75,000 people per year, compared to the current 106,000. This figure has been at the heart of this debate as it seems a completely arbitrary number, designed only to show that the UK was now ‘tough’ on immigration. Unfortunately, very little research has been done into these figures- and the British border force is under constant scrutiny as it has been found to be less-than-adequate in dealing with immigration cases properly. There’s no denying that Britain’s border controls need to be rethought, as countless recent failures have shown, but reducing the total net immigration by almost a quarter is, for Deputy PM Nick Clegg, a step too far.

The Deputy Prime Minister has attacked the move saying it would be both ‘illegal and undeliverable’ and would cause many problems for the UK. He continued, ‘If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Finnish engineers or Dutch accountants that they can’t come to work here it would be a disaster for our economy. The City of London would grind to a halt overnight. It would be very, very bad for British business and the health of the economy.’ It is understood that immigrants make up a large share of GDP and are, generally, less likely to take benefits than the average Briton. But this fact seems to escape those in the Conservative party who still want to see immigration numbers slashed.

But the Deputy PM wasn’t just concerned about those who are looking to get into the UK, he said, “I think it would be very unwelcome to the two million or so Brits who live and work abroad who I don’t think would thank the Conservative party for entering into a sort of tit-for-tat race to the bottom.” These are strong words from Nick Clegg, whose party is clearly tired of their Government counterparts’ attacks on UK immigration policy.

The importance of immigration to the UK’s economy and culture should be obvious to anyone. However, an unfortunate side-effect of economic recessions is that people become far more introverted- looking to close off their links to the rest of the world. Britain right now is in the grip of anti-immigrant hysteria and the Conservatives want to appeal to this sentiment by appearing ‘tough on immigration’.

When we elect our representatives, their job is to do what’s in our best interests. Usually this means researching a topic and voting on it in whichever way the MP sees fit. This means that, under a ‘mandate’, the MP can do as he or she pleases on our behalf, with the knowledge that a lot of tough decisions won’t please all the people. But the Tories, right now, are doing the worst possible thing and making knee-jerk policy decisions based on ignorance. Just because a lot of British people want to see a drop in immigration doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. The benefits of an open-minded, progressive immigration policy far outweigh the negatives but until these politicians are brave enough to do what’s right, the UK will have an immigration policy dictated by ignorance and maintained by prejudice.

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