12 May 2017

Immigration: The manifesto challenge

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As parties prepare to launch their manifestos, the General Election campaign will see politicians seek the trust of the British public as they stand for election to a new Parliament which will undertake the biggest change in British politics for half a century, writes Steve Balllinger.

As we prepare to leave the EU, that Parliament is also likely to oversee the most significant overhaul in a generation of the framework for immigration to Britain. Rebuilding public trust in how we manage immigration and integration in Britain is at the heart of the challenge of how to get Brexit right. Setting out a framework to restore that confidence is a key manifesto challenge that the political parties face.

In Immigration: The manifesto challenge – 10 steps to restore public trust on immigration and integration, British Future poses ten key questions about future policy choices which voters will want parties and candidates to be able to answer at hustings, on the doorstep and in the media.

We then offer our own proposals in answer to those questions: ten practical measures that could help to rebuild trust and confidence in how we manage immigration and integration in Britain. These ‘common ground’ proposals would, we believe, secure the support of most voters across the political and referendum divides – so we hope that politicians of all parties will consider them, as they discuss immigration during the General Election campaign:

  1. Invest properly in an immigration system that is effective, fair and humane

  2. Propose a new UK migration deal with the EU to replace free movement

  3. Hold Britain’s first ever Comprehensive Immigration Review; and set sensible limits for immigration controls, making promises that governments are in a position to meet

  4. Non-EU immigration: review the rules on family migration

  5. Use money generated by the Immigration Skills Charge on training for UK workers; and consider measures to reduce dependence on migrant workers

  6. Uphold refugee protection, improve the system and extend community sponsorship

  7. Set a target for increased student migration – so that Global Britain competes to top the global league in attracting international students

  8. Implement local impacts funding, to ensure net gains from migration reach the places of most change

  9. Increase political accountability on immigration through a Migration Day report to Parliament and the public.

  10. Commit to introducing a national integration strategy.


This General Election campaign cannot settle or decide every detail of a future immigration policy.  But that is not a reason to duck the challenging questions about the future choices on immigration. Doing so would demonstrate a lack of confidence in the public.  Whatever strategic choices the major parties make, the election campaign should be a chance to have the debate anyway.

Just as Britain’s new post-referendum context is a reset moment for immigration policy, it also offers an opportunity for a new kind of immigration debate, too. One which engages the public constructively in a conversation about the pressures and gains from immigration; which secures consent for the immigration that we need and decide to keep, and for the controls and targets that we put in place; and which starts to rebuild public trust in an immigration system that is right for Britain as we set out into our post-referendum future. That is our migration manifesto challenge to the political parties in 2017.

Download the manifesto here

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