The crisis is so grave that we need a minister for migration
Another minister will not fix this. Britain needs a minister for jihad. And a minister for the hijra. This is not a “crisis”, this is about self-preservation. This is western civilisation on its last legs.
Sending home Polish plumbers was never what all this was about.
Britain is to leave the EU, and a substantial proportion of those who voted for this did so because they want much tighter control of immigration.
Indeed, if there is one aspiration that unites most of the British people in these divided days, it is this. But how can it be accomplished?
So far, all we really know about Brexit is that it means Brexit. Detail is absent.
That is why we should welcome a pamphlet published this week by David Goodhart, of the think-tank Policy Exchange, which offers some practical proposals for curbing Britain’s soaring population.
He writes: ‘It would be hard to justify the disruption of leaving the single market if the headline net immigration figure did not fall below 200,000 a year’ — from the current 330,000.
Here, he makes an honest start by acknowledging that it is neither possible nor desirable to reduce the number of incomers to zero.
We need workers with special skills, workers for the NHS and welfare services, for catering and tourism.
But we do not need — or want — the vast numbers currently coming, and here is Goodhart’s shopping list of ideas for regaining control of Britain’s borders.
The vast numbers currently coming are undesirable welfare seekers. They are unassimilable savages who will never be able to contribute anything valuable to civilised society.
First, it is essential to know who is here, and what rights they are entitled to.
A decade ago, many people passionately opposed Gordon Brown’s identity card scheme, first because it would have been phenomenally expensive, and second because it seemed to smack of Big Brother.
Goodhart, the former editor of Prospect magazine, who has written a book arguing that immigration should be curtailed as it is undermining national solidarity and the Welfare State, argues that the information is available to monitor people though a population register, incorporating a unique personal number, based on NHS registration.
At present, the Department for Work and Pensions, Revenue & Customs and the Home Office do not exchange data about all those who cross their radar as citizens, tax payers and benefit claimants. This is crazy.
A decade ago, many people passionately opposed Gordon Brown’s identity card scheme
Beyond EU citizens with an absolute right to come and go — which, of course, will stop with Brexit — some two million people enter Britain on limited visas, and a substantial portion of these overstay them, many vanishing into low-paid work.
Yet at some point they are bound to engage with one of the state bureaucracies, most likely the NHS.
The Scandinavians, who are keener than most people on personal liberty, run population registers. It is long overdue for Britain to do the same.
According to Goodhart’s blueprint, such a system would be overseen by a new government department for immigration and integration.
This is such an important issue for this country, that it must be right to entrust responsibility to a dedicated Whitehall department.
Pending the creation of a new department of state, the Home Office needs to streamline the work permit system, since this will soon need to handle applications from countries in the EU as well as outside it.
Goodhart also argues that the Border Force and Immigration Enforcement bodies will need more resources and to offer higher pay in order to raise staff quality and improve motivation. If we care about protecting our borders as much as we tell each other in the pub that we do, then it is time to start financing it properly.
He identifies another key issue: the shortage of young British people with the skills and motivation to accept a wide range of jobs currently done by foreigners.
We should accept, he says, that seasonal agricultural work and similar jobs will never hold much appeal, and thus we shall continue to need migrant labour to pick strawberries and suchlike.
But he proposes a commission, perhaps chaired by Sir David Metcalf, who is finishing his term as head of the Migration Advisory Committee, to explore incentives for employers to hire and train British citizens, as at present they are reluctant to do.
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Currently, it is simpler to bring in foreign workers, especially those with technology skills, to whom 151,000 visas were granted last year, including 60,000 for dependants.
The ambition behind Goodhart’s plan is obviously right, but I am sceptical about its practicability — unless or until there is a dramatic improvement in the British education system.
Every major employer wails about the shortage of STEM skills — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It would be disastrous for British industry and enterprise in the difficult years that are bound to follow Brexit, if they are prevented from hiring people with appropriate skills, wherever these have to come from.
Importantly, Goodhart argues that we need to draw a sharper distinction between people who come here with the ultimate intention of taking up citizenship, and those — accounting for two-thirds of the annual intake, including students and workers — who are merely birds of passage.
He writes: ‘A temporary citizen should not be a full member, should not have full access to social and political rights (and would not have an automatic right to bring in dependants) and should leave after a few years.’
The State would then be able to focus its attention and resources on integrating those who make a full commitment to becoming British — which should properly mean they accept recognised responsibilities as well as rights.
Recent human rights legislation, Goodhart says, has blurred the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.
We need to become much more particular about whom we permit to share the material and moral privileges of this society.
I note he does not mention judges, but some of us believe the judiciary has played an important and unhelpful role, by stretching human rights law to justify admitting to Britain, or allowing to remain here, people who lack the slightest interest in embracing our values or culture.
David Goodhart’s pamphlet is excellent as far as it goes, and should be required reading within our new Government. I regret only that he says nothing about refugees, both political and economic, who are entering Europe in vast numbers from across the Mediterranean, in a mass movement likely to increase exponentially in the years ahead.
Whether we are in the EU or out of it, this represents a huge challenge for the British and indeed all governments, to devise a policy for handling huge numbers of people struggling for admission to our prosperous societies.
Most people are reluctant to see large numbers admitted — with the exception of unaccompanied vulnerable children — however strong may be the compassionate case.
So what then to do about them? Any new immigration policy for Britain — and a new policy we must certainly have — has to include consideration of this mammoth problem.
Ministers will have to make judgments, in which human rights will be inextricably entangled, about what contribution Britain will, or will not, make to addressing a problem, with no easy answers save for those who believe the Mediterranean boat-crossers can be left to drown.
But at least it seems we are now witnessing a good start to a vital debate, with David Goodhart introducing some substantial proposals in place of the fevered referendum campaign rhetoric.
Almost all of his ideas, he says, could be introduced without waiting for the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
In the years ahead, we face many uncertainties.
What is for sure, however, is that millions of Leave voters will never forgive the Tory Government if it fails to introduce tough, realistic controls on immigration, which will need to go far beyond ending free movement for EU citizens.
Merely sending home Polish plumbers was never what all this was about.