With just a few days to go before the general election and the opinion polls apparently tightening, it is worthwhile having a brief look at the immigration policies proposed by both the Labour and Liberal Democrats parties.
Labour have managed to cover the topic within two pages of its manifesto – perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the topic of immigration is sensitive to its core vote and particularly so following the Brexit vote.
One should bear in mind, that historically, both parties have broadly had a similar outlook on immigration.
This theme continues with them both recognizing the contribution by migrants to the UK – which are very different in tone to the Conservative party.
Labour accept that Freedom of Movement will end once the UK leaves the European Union – in their view perhaps an interpretation of what the Brexit vote signalled. This position contrasts with the Liberal Democrats who wish to retain the principle of Freedom of Movement and their desire to remain part of the Europe Union and to seek another referendum to remain.
Otherwise, both parties are committed to allowing EU nationals to remain within the UK. It is worth mentioning that the language used by the Liberal Democrats seems to be stronger on this issue.
The treatment of EU nationals is an obvious differentiating position to that of the Conservatives.
Labour will look to manage migration ‘fairly’ through consultation with third parties such as business, trade unions and government using existing laws. The Liberal Democrats believe that the current system has been subject to strain and that improvement is required.
Labour will ‘reinstate’ the Migrant Impact Fund removed in 2010, so that councils can look to ease the pressure on public services where there has been an influx of migrants. They will also look to boost the fund’s ability to spend, by raising additional money through ‘high net worth individuals’ migrating to the UK, presumably through a surcharge or levy.
The Liberal Democrats will coincidentally introduce a ‘Migrant Impact Fund’ to assist local communities to help them adjust to the pressures on public services through migration. It will also hold an annual debate on skill and labour shortages to help identify the country’s immigration requirements.
Labour will remove the financial income requirements brought in by the coalition government and replace it with a more generous ‘prohibition’ on migrants from being able to claim public benefits. The Liberal Democrats simply state, that they will look to ensure that family visas will be processed more efficiently.
Labour will welcome international students and remove them from migration statistics. The Liberal Democrats have a similar stance and will not only remove students from migration statistics, but will go further by reintroducing the post-study work route.
Once can indeed see broad similarities with Labour and the Liberal Democrats approaches on immigration.
It is important to bear their positions on immigration in mind, as it is possible, from reading current polling reports that the UK is heading for a ‘hung parliament’. Significantly, either party could play a part in forming a part of the next UK government and just like 2010, their respective positions on immigration will form part of the negotiation to form that new government.
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