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May 09, 2017



Given the ONS figures on immigration are not accurate to within 40,000, how will the government know if they've hit their target?

Peter K.

I think you are correct and the same strategy (or lack of) holds here in the U.S.

Trump came from outside the Republican party and was backed at first only by strenuously anti-immigrant Republicans like Jeff Sessions.

But he won the primary and usurped the Republican elite who opportunistically supported him in order to get tax cuts and deregulation. In the UK, May and the Tories opportunistically supported Brexit.

In France, however, the center right backed centrist Macron over Le Pen which helped Macron prevail.

Dave Timoney

There is surely an ideological bias to the choice of an immigration target, over and above its value as a ready-made excuse. It implies that the state can manage national resources but that their efforts are undermined by foreigners and native saboteurs. Sterling used to have much the same symbolic purpose.

Ralph Musgrave

Chris seems to have missed out another very simple reason for May's wholly dishonest immigration target: it attracts or keeps anti-immigration UKIP & Tory voters voting Tory. Likewise Corbyn will make similar fatuous and dishonest promises about "controlling immigration" or some such with a view to attracting those voters to Labour.


The post and the comments miss a key point. Freedom of Movement has been used to avoid training UK citizens for jobs, and also been used to import jobs and workers to take advantage of the benefits of operating in the UK. By announcing a limit on immigration the government is putting the onus on firms to train and employ UK workers as a preference - not something that can be legally done at the moment. Immigration above the target will be a measure of the failure to address the training and skills gap. It will prompt questions as to what steps have been taken to train up workers already here, and ask questions about why that work is being done here if it is not possible to get resident UK citizens to do it (and not an essential service).


So are party political deflections accounting for the feedback loop described above no longer a virtue then? Is our sophisticated party political system, in part at least, the cause of the now large-scale social phenomena known as turkeys voting for Christmas? And with MSM busy lamenting or castigating the poor while earning its advertising revenue, have blogs such as this one become the go to place to find the first rough pointers to history?

Dave Timoney


The government can already legally limit the number of non-EU migrants in order to encourage UK businesses to invest in training. It has never worked - business always persuades the government to relax the quotas or criteria - yet this has never led to the government suffering anything more than minor embarrassment.

The thrust of this post is that the immigration target isn't actually a target at all, in the sense of an indicator of intent, so it is pointless to imagine it could have any effect on behaviour. It is purely symbolic.

Arthur Murray

I'm pretty sure I'm being naive here but I have to ask. Are there any top Tories who've said to their colleagues "aren't you being dishonest blaming immigration for faltering wages and public services, when it's really our fault?"
I mean, do committees of senior Tories sit around and think up ways of deceiving the public. "Will they fall for this explanation of low wages, Lynton?"
"Well Mrs May, the focus groups tell us that they will."


The other obvious point about a low immigration target for the next parliament is it takes a Norwegian style arrangement of market access in exchange for Free Movement off the Brexit negotiating table. I'm surprised more has not been made of this.


@ A2E I'm not sure about "the government suffering anything more than minor embarrassment". The UKIP vote dented conservative votes and may have been responsible for one coalition and nearly gave them another.

I'm not sure how a target is purely symbolic. If they don't get near it (again) they are going to look fairly stupid. Given they are going to walk this election I would personally have thought it prudent that they don't give themselves such hostages to fortune. The fact that Theresa May is not an idiot and has selected this target along with all the consequences of that target makes me think she is serious about this,


norway has freedom of movement, and pays a lot into the budget. but they also have oil.


"Immigration is only a minor contributor to low wages". well ok, but if it's a 100% contributor to *my* low wages, that's a different story.


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