18 September 2018

Response to the MAC report on EEA migration

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The Migration Advisory Committee’s new report on the impacts of EEA migration is missing a vital element by failing to include the voices of the British public.

British Future Director Sunder Katwala said:

“The MAC is right to recommend that high-skilled and low-skilled migration are treated differently in future. Most of the public would agree. That should also mean the end of the one-size-fits-all net migration target.

“The report also rightly notes that funding to manage the local impacts of immigration on public services needs to get to the areas that need it most. Expanding the Controlling Immigration Fund would be one way to do this. In our research across the UK we found that local impacts make a real difference to how people view immigration.

“This report should now prompt politicians to step up and lead the debate about how Britain will approach immigration after Brexit – a debate that’s been ducked and delayed for the last two years, causing frustration and mistrust on all sides.

“It is missing a vital element, however – the voice of the public. Neither the MAC nor the Government has engaged the public in the choices we now face on immigration. That’s a serious oversight – the National Conversation on Immigration found an urgent need to rebuild public confidence and consent in our immigration system, and greater public engagement would help to do that.”

“The MAC takes no view of how Brexit negotiations will impact on our future immigration system. A really big challenge for ministers this autumn is how to link the right immigration system for Britain with their desire for a good deal on trade with the EU.”

Together with anti-prejudice campaigners Hope not hate, British Future has just conducted the biggest-ever public consultation on immigration, the National Conversation on Immigration, which published its final report yesterday.

The National Conversation on Immigration is the biggest-ever public consultation on immigration. Researchers from British Future and Hope not hate held over 130 meetings in 60 towns and cities across every nation and region of the UK, together with an open online survey and nationally-representative ICM polling. Nearly 20,000 people took part.

It finds that most people are ‘balancers’ on immigration, seeing both pressures and gains, but that they do not trust the Government to manage migration competently and fairly. This moderate majority is crowded-out of a polarised online immigration debate that is dominated by those with the strongest views.

As the Government considers its approach to immigration after Brexit, the National Conversation on Immigration findings also warn against an approach that focuses too much on temporary migration. Most of the public prefer migrants to integrate and settle in the UK rather than working in the UK for a short time and then moving on.

ICM’s polling for the National Conversation finds that six in ten people (61%) agree that “It is better when migrants commit to stay in Britain, put down roots and integrate,” compared to 39% who say “It is better when migrants come here to work for a few years without putting down roots and then return home.”

Sunder Katwala added:

“Integration matters. How people experience immigration, in the towns and cities where they live, shapes their views. The public prefers migrants to stay, settle and become part of the local community, rather than the perpetual ‘churn’ of temporary migration.

“We should be wary of a Gastarbeiter scheme in which an ever-changing group of temporary workers feels no particular incentive to integrate.”

Read the final report of the National Conversation on Immigration at www.nationalconversation.org.uk


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