The British public are clearly dissatisfied with the way our immigration system currently works. One of the main reasons that motivated people to vote for Brexit in the recent referendum is the hope that Britain could better control immigration by ending the free movement of people from the EU. For years now, immigration has been one of the issues that the public are most concerned about.
But there is hope: now, more than ever, the cynicism can be cracked. There is an exciting opportunity, thanks to Brexit and the appointment of a new Cabinet, for the Government to introduce significant reforms to our immigration system to increase public confidence in it.
What do the majority of the public want? Sensible stuff, unsurprisingly. Bright Blue’s research shows, above all, the public want a system which is well managed, where the UK can choose the people we want to admit and who will contribute to our society. Most want a reduction in the unprecedented levels of immigration the UK currently experiences, not out of fear of foreigners, but because of the pressure on services such as housing and schools which some areas have been unprepared for.
Three major reforms should be introduced to better align this country’s immigration system with public attitudes. The first reform should be to ensure, in negotiations with the EU, that there is eventually an end to current freedom of movement rules. Britain presently has no control over the number and type of people who come from the EU, the antithesis of what the public want.
But getting change is going to be tricky, requiring clever and patient diplomacy. Britain needs a deal that ensures we have access to the single market, considering the desirability for business confidence and investment.