Friday, 22 March 2013

Nick Clegg's immigration speech

From Nick Clegg's speech on immigration: 
"I believe people will have more faith in our immigration system if they see that we are doing everything we can to help young British men and women into work.  To that end, the Coalition has also capped unskilled migration from outside the EU."
This is fantasy.  The Coalition has introduced absolutely no policies that "cap migration from outside the EU", since when they took office there were no economic migration routes permitting unskilled workers from outside the EU, and have not been for some time.  
Indeed, the previous government stated in 2008: 
"But we have also decided to suspend low skilled migration from outside Europe through the points based system which will provide additional protection for low paid workers."
Even this was disingenuous; there was very little to "suspend" even then.  Post 2004, and the new EU member states, what need was there for low skilled migration from outside the EU?
When I asked Mr Clegg what policies he was referring to, he said that of course all he meant was that that the Coalition had maintained the policy of the previous government, and said I was being "mischievous" in suggesting that he was being misleading. The written text is above; judge for yourself.

Politicians from all parties are always saying that we need an "open and honest"  debate about immigration. Getting your facts completely wrong doesn't help.  On policy, there's not much to say about the speech, except that it was profoundly illiberal (from an economic perspective); on this, again, there seems to be a regrettable cross-party consensus.  My outline of what a liberal, market-friendly approach that took the contribution of immigration to growth and productivity seriously is here

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