Immigration news from General Election 2019 campaign: what are the parties proposing?
Since the posting of this blog, further announcements have been made by the parties as well on their proposals for immigration to the UK if elected.
18 NOVEMBER 2019
Conservative Party Proposals
The Conservatives have announced that they intend to increase the cost of the NHS surcharge for migrants from £400 to £625 per year.
The party argues that this policy change will ensure migrants are “making a sufficient contribution to our health service”. The fee was increased only in January 2019 from £200 to £400 per year for non-student applicants.
Labour Party Proposals
It is still unclear whether the Labour Party are committed to maintaining and extending free movement rights for migrants, and what exactly this might mean.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to confirm this if policy will form part of the party’s final manifesto.
Liberal Democrat Proposals
The Liberal Democrats have issued a policy paper proposing major reform of the UK’s immigration system, saying it is “broken” and is “hurting everyone”.
They have set out more detailed pledges so far than any of the other parties, including to:
- Stop Brexit and save free movement
- End the current government’s ‘hostile environment’
- Take powers away from the Home Office, giving decision-making to new arms-length agency
- Abolish ‘minimum income requirements’ for spouse and partner visas
- Reduce the fees for children becoming British to costs level
- Replace work visas with more flexible merit-based system
- Reduce immigration detention to an absolute last resort and limit to 28 days
- Give asylum seekers the right to work after 3 months
15 NOVEMBER 2019
This week the UK’s main political parties have been outlining their election policies on immigration.
Both the Conservative and Labour party are proposing significant changes. Here we look at their intended future plans.
Conservative Party Proposals
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel announced on 13 November 2019 that the Conservative party is committed to “reduce immigration overall”.
Although Priti Patel said that the party would “look to reduce the numbers”, the party would not set “arbitrary” targets. It appears that the party have now abandoned David Cameron’s previous commitment to cut net migration to tens of thousands, a target that was never achieved.
The party leader Boris Johnson has today stated that the party will seek to reduce unskilled migration but confirmed he was “in favour of people of talent coming to this country”.
Although the Conservative party’s have not set out any detailed plans on how they intend to reduce immigration overall, they have put forward the following policy proposals:
- End Free Movement of workers from EU countries when the UK leaves the EU
- Introduce an “Australian-style points based system” for workers which awards points for set criteria such as age, skills and language
- Be more open and flexible to the highly skilled people needed (Patel specifically mentioned “scientists and doctors”)
- Create a new NHS Visa to attract more doctors and nurses which would be cheaper than other visas, with applications fast tracked
- Reduce low skilled migration
The Home Secretary has said that these policies will enable the UK to “control immigration numbers” whilst attracting “vital professionals” and the “brightest and best” to come to the UK.
Labour Party Proposals
Although the party have not yet signed off their manifesto, Labour’s immigration policy was explained on 14 November 2019 by party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as being “based on fairness and justice, and on the economic needs of our society, and they are considerable”.
However the party’s stance on continuing free movement for EU nationals remains unclear. Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, tweeted yesterday that the party is “committed to maintaining and extending Freedom of Movement rights”, confirming the motion passed supporting free movement at the recent Labour Party Conference.
This pledge was though muddied by comments also made yesterday by the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn that free movement “doesn’t necessarily form part of the manifesto” and also by Len McCluskey of the Unite union who said that the party needed to “get stricter labour market regulation” before having any greater free movement.
The Labour Party have also said that they propose to do the following:
- Introduce a more simplified visa application system for migrant workers with “bona-fide skills”
- Scrap the current minimum income requirement for family applicants and make it easier for families to bring relatives to the UK
- Make it easier for workers to come to the UK
- Abolish “arbitrary” immigration targets
Labour state they want to “create an immigration system which is fair and in the interests of the economy and community as a whole”.
The Liberal Democrats have not announced any proposed immigration policies.
However as their main policy is to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU, their stance appears likely to be to maintain existing free movement rights for EU migrants.
Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman, criticised the Conservative’s proposals on immigration, saying “This country needs people to come here to keep our NHS and so many sectors properly skilled and staffed. The Conservatives’ approach to immigration is an insult to the millions who have come to the UK and made it their home. Immigration brings so much to our communities, culture and economy.”.
Scottish National Party
The SNP have said that cutting immigration numbers would be “hugely damaging to the Scottish economy” and that they therefore seek to maintain free movement rights.
Immigration is a key policy area in the election.
So far the parties have set out some broad proposals but there is no detail about how they intend to implement their plans.
Whilst it is not yet known which party will be in government after the election, it appears that significant changes to the current immigration system are likely to be made whoever is in power.