The Social Market Foundation (SMF) last week released a new briefing looking at the challenges of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy.
SMF describes itself as a non-partisan think tank, and its board members include Nicky Morgan MP, Margaret Hodge MP and Trevor Phillips OBE.
SMF says its briefing takes a historical perspective on the potential consequences of ending freedom of movement, using the lens of the past to illuminates the UK’s current post-Brexit immigration policy proposals.
The briefing explains: “The immigration policies addressed in this Briefing generate significant passions. This Briefing’s purpose is to assess their likely impacts dispassionately. It seeks to illuminate potential consequences of the UK Government’s currently proposed course of action through applying lessons from history to the EU Settlement Scheme (which sets out the UK’s offer to stay to those EU citizens already resident here) and to the Government White Paper on the Future Immigration System (which sets out the Government’s proposals for the UK’s immigration system going forward for new arrivals, with the ending of EU freedom of movement in the UK).”
It draws four key lessons for UK policymakers:
- Greater immigration restrictions on well-established existing immigration flows can lead to an increased permanent lawful immigrant population.
- Greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular migrant entry.
- Greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular immigrant stay, and therefore an increased irregular immigrant population.
- An increasingly visible irregular immigrant population accompanied by increased immigration enforcement can give rise to greater public concern over immigration even if overall immigrant flows are reducing.
The briefing concludes: “In the light of these four lessons, the ending of EU freedom of movement in the UK represents the start of a significant new challenge for the UK in managing not only immigration, but also the public’s concerns, whether over immigration control or numbers. To address it the Government will need to inject a dose of honest realism, coming clean about the complexities and unintended consequences of immigration policy, about the control that it does have, but also the practical limits to that control. And the trade-offs inherent in this, that it may not be realistic to have the degree of control over immigration that many people in the UK say they want, while at the same time keeping other aspects of UK society as those same people would like them. This is even more important to embark on now, because despite all the debate around EU immigration into the UK, all indicators point to the fact that going forward the main immigration pressures on the UK are likely to come from outside the EU, not from within it.”
James Kirkup, SMF Director, said: “If our leaders fail to have that honest conversation about the future of immigration after free movement ends, they risk creating the sort of conditions in Britain that helped Donald Trump become US president.
“There are too many people in British politics, in all parties, who believe an open approach to immigration is beneficial but fail to talk honestly to voters about the pros and cons of immigration. They should ask themselves what Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party could become in future if misplaced expectations trigger another political backlash over immigration.”