May has proved she can’t be trusted over immigration

Published by The Times (20th November, 2018)

Theresa May has been clear about one thing from the start on Brexit: she saw the referendum result as an endorsement for her tough stance on immigration and would stop free movement between Britain and Europe regardless of the consequences. So the beleaguered prime minister, desperate to sell her battered deal, yesterday promised ‘an immigration system for the future everyone can have confidence in’.

She told the Confederation of British Industry it would no longer be the case that Europeans could ‘jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi’ and she would deliver ‘a system that works for business’.

Great stuff. If only it was true. Forget offensive talk of queue-jumping: free movement has been good for business just as it has been a boost for public services and tourism. May’s pose as the person to deliver a fairer system is unconvincing given her woeful history. During six years as home secretary she unleashed a hostile environment that corroded Britain’s reputation for fairness. The most obvious example was the Windrush scandal, such a callous catastrophe for thousands of families.

This was just the tip of an iceberg. She introduced iniquitous minimum-income rules for Britons bringing in spouses from abroad, which has left thousands of children separated from one of their parents. May relied on a dodgy dossier to rebrand Eritreans fleeing one of the world’s most repressive regimes as economic migrants — which sparked an inevitable surge in appeals — and was later judged to have broken the law in rejecting child refugees.

She tried to turn doctors, landlords and businesses into border guards. She sent out vile vans telling illegal migrants to ‘Go Home’. And she stopped a trade deal with India after Delhi requested a few more visas, according to fellow ministers. She also insisted foreign students remain in the daft immigration cap, to the dismay of cabinet colleagues and a world-beating sector. This target has been a failure and May is almost alone at Westminster in wanting to stick with it.

The visa system for traders and tourists wanting to visit Britain has become so expensive and unfriendly that I have heard many people saying they will not bother trying to visit our shores again.

Now May pushes a statist system based on false choices between high and low skills, while telling businesses to trust her as she spews out empty clichés about ‘global Britain’. She reminds me of those devious liberal Leavers who jumped into bed with angry xenophobes to win Brexit while pretending to seek a fairer migration system. Look at her deeds, not her honeyed words.


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