Conservatives have cheered in Boris’s ending of European free movement, and its replacement with an “Australian-style” points-based immigration system. They are wrong to do so.

In a successful attempt to catch the Brexit tide, the Conservative Party portrayed this system as an opportunity to ‘take back control’. This line was, and is still swallowed by those who support the lowering of immigration numbers (one of the ‘People’s Priorities, according to Priti Patel).

A month before the 2016 referendum, forty-five per cent of voters expected that post-Brexit immigration numbers would be below 185,000 – a figure which rose to seventy-one per cent when Leave voters were singled out. (Consider, also, that the desired level would be far lower than the expected level.)

Indeed, the “Austrialian-style” system has always been viewed favourably by the public because it presents the idea of lower numbers (especially when tied to rhetoric concerning ‘control’).

As is Conservative Party norm, the rhetoric is far removed from the action.

Boris has not, and will not introduce immigration caps that are anywhere near the 100,000 reductions needed to meet the above expectation. Even if he did, he would not take action to meet them, just as David Cameron didn’t bother to meet his. After all, the rhetoric is enough for catching votes.

It is possible that the stipulations of the new immigration system will be even less popular than the current one- or, I should say, would be, if people saw beyond the spin.

This will take ‘the best and brightest [migrants] from all over the world’, as the Party’s last manifesto stated- meaning from countries with far more diverse cultures. Research has shown, for instance, that opposition to immigration from African and Asian countries is much greater than that to inward-movement from EU countries; again, due to diverging cultures.

Here, as elsewhere, the Conservative Party’s focus has not been on what is best for British culture but what, allegedly, is best for the economy. The pursuit of cheap labour and cheap goods trumps all else in Tory circles, regardless of the cultural loss.

And people still believe it is patriotic. Granted, it’s very good at spin.

 

Photo by Chatham House on Flickr.

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