Returning net immigration to the tens of thousands

Leaving the EU under Theresa May’s leadership will allow us to return to properly managed migration at sustainable levels.

Our Manifesto has committed to returning net immigration back to the tens of thousands, as we experienced as a country until the 1990s, rather than those levels we are experiencing today because of decisions taken by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the last Labour government – and because of our membership of the EU. They opened our borders to unlimited migration from poorer European countries with lower wages and higher unemployment, while trying to reassure us that anybody who was speaking out against immigration were being hysterical. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

It’s not about being inhospitable to, for example, the significantly larger Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian communities we have here today. But we do need to ensure that when people are choosing to live here and take advantage of the economic opportunities available in our great town, that there are the public service resources and infrastructure present so that Darlington residents who already live here don’t lose out. We have lost control of this over the past two decades, and for me personally, it was a big reason why I decided to support and campaign for our Brexit decision last year.

Theresa May recognised this while still Home Secretary – despite having ultimately remained loyal to her Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the referendum by backing his renegotiation deal – when she nonetheless spoke out saying:

  • ‘Free movement makes it harder to control immigration… I understand why people are concerned about immigration. It has an effect on public services and jobs… there is an issue about free movement.’ She repeatedly stated in the same interview that ‘Immigration is too high and we need to control immigration’ (BBC News, 24 April 2016, link).
  • And the next day in another speech: ‘Free movement rules mean it is harder to control the volume of European immigration – and as I said yesterday that is clearly no good thing… we don’t get anything like everything we want, and we have to put up with a lot that we do not want. And when that happens, we should be honest about it. The Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the free movement of people: none of these things work the way we would like them to work, and we need to be smarter about how we try to change these things in future’ (Home Office, 25 April 2016, link).

Until we have left the EU, and negotiated a deal that does not include free movement, every EU citizen retains the right to enter the UK (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, art. 20(2)(a), link). We can only take back control of immigration, and reduce numbers to sustainable levels, by making sure that we get a good deal with the EU, and not a bad deal that includes ongoing free movement – as Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate still supported as recently as January (Open Britain, 23 January 2017, link). We should prioritise skilled migration rather than allowing continued cheap unskilled labour that depresses wages and means fewer jobs for everyone else. But we can only do that if we really leave, and we can’t trust that Jeremy Corbyn or his candidate here really want to do that.

For those who doubt Theresa May’s commitment to lowering immigration, you only need to look at her past speeches, even well before the referendum (for which she was heavily criticised by the metropolitan media elite at the time). In her speech to the 2015 Conservative Party conference in Manchester, as Home Secretary, she said: ‘even if we could manage all the consequences of mass immigration, Britain does not need net migration in the hundreds of thousands every year … The evidence – from the OECD, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and many academics – shows that while there are benefits of selective and controlled immigration, at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero. So there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade. Neither is it true that, in the modern world, immigration is no longer possible to control … The numbers coming from Europe are unsustainable and the rules have to change’ (Independent, 6 October 2015, link).

This is why I am utterly convinced that we will be able to reduce the numbers of people who are coming here to the UK, particularly as economic migrants, as we depart the EU – and particularly a large part of that reduction in net migration will be from problematic EU unskilled labour that depreciates the wages of ordinary working families.

With a lower number of migrants looking to compete with our own workforce in areas that there isn’t real economic necessity, we can then hope to see the level of wages paid in Darlington begin to rise ahead of prices again – something that has been long coming, but the current rate of migration has delayed.

We have huge potential to attract new businesses and jobs here too, building on our manufacturing and engineering strengths, as we leave the EU – and if we get the right Brexit deal under Theresa May and sign new trade agreements with old friends and emerging markets. But we will only really feel the benefits as local Darlington residents if we have taken back control of migration as well!


You can’t trust Jeremy Corbyn and his local candidate here on ending unskilled immigration or to prioritise UK interests in the Brexit negotiation

Labour’s position remains utterly confused on immigration and free movement – they are in a total shambles. As recently as last year, Labour’s John McDonnell called for a completely ‘borderless world’ with no immigration controls (BBC News, 31 January 2016, link). The last Labour government saw more immigration in 13 years than the previous 1,000 years combined (Daily Mail, 22 February 2011, link).

My main rival and Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate here has suggested she wants a deal with the EU that is ‘Not just about trade, is about community too’ (Twitter, 24 February 2017, link), and retweeted her boss when he said ‘We must make sure we remain an internationalist party’ (Twitter, 5 April 2017, link). She is a supporter of Open Britain – the pro-EU and pro-immigration campaign group backed by Nick Clegg and Tony Blair, emerging from the BSE Remain campaign last year – misleadingly scaremongering (remember Project Fear?) about the impact on jobs if we are outside the single market, while campaigning against the job opportunities open to us if we were to sign up to new trade deals around the globe (Twitter, 24 March 2017, link).

Even when asked directly on the topic, Corbyn’s candidate here when asked ‘Do you want free movement to end?’ responded ‘We want a change. We want managed migration, is what we’re saying… We don’t want a Hard [Brexit]… [Interviewer: so you don’t want free movement to end?] We need to change. We cannot have the status quo. That’s been very, very clear from the British public and we have received that message and we have understood it’ (BBC Daily Politics [recorded by Daily Express], 18 January 2017, link). However, as recently as January she wrote to the Prime Minister contesting Theresa May’s decision to leave the single market and end free movement (Open Britain, 23 January 2017, link).

As Shadow Brexit Minister she has even failed to get the commitments needed to deliver Brexit and a reduction of immigration into the Labour Manifesto, which calls any target to reduce immigration ‘bogus’ and commits to guarantee the rights of EU migrants on ‘day one’ regardless of agreement of any protections over our own nationals across the EU (Labour List, 25 April 2017, link; The Labour Party, 17 May 2017, link). Despite this dismissal of public concern over the current level of migration, she still has the audacity to claim ‘We’re the only party that understands properly what the vote was all about’ (BuzzFeed News, 25 April 2017, link).


Theresa May in direct contrast is committed to reduction of migration to sustainable levels – from the hundreds of thousands back to the tens of thousands per year

For those still in any doubt, the following excerpt from Theresa May’s 2015 Conservative Conference speech, again for which she was heavily criticised by the liberal metropolitan media at the time, is very instructive. She is very much more in touch with the needs and interests of people like those here in Darlington than any number of Corbyn- and EU-supporting candidates were in the referendum, and even in this election:

There are millions of people in poorer countries who would love to live in Britain, and there is a limit to the amount of immigration any country can and should take. While we must fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need, we must also have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country.

Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society. It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.

Now I know there are some people who say, yes there are costs of immigration, but the answer is to manage the consequences, not reduce the numbers. But not all of the consequences can be managed, and doing so for many of them comes at a high price. We need to build 210,000 new homes every year to deal with rising demand. We need to find 900,000 new school places by 2024.  And there are thousands of people who have been forced out of the labour market, still unable to find a job.

But even if we could manage all the consequences of mass immigration, Britain does not need net migration in the hundreds of thousands every year.  Of course, immigrants plug skills shortages and it’s right that we should try to attract the best talent in the world, but not every person coming to Britain right now is a skilled electrician, engineer or doctor.  The evidence – from the OECD, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and many academics – shows that while there are benefits of selective and controlled immigration, at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero.  So there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade.

Neither is it true that, in the modern world, immigration is no longer possible to control.  The experience of the last five years is that where the Government has the political will to reduce immigration, it can do so.  We rooted out abuse of the student visa system, and the numbers went down.  We reformed family visas, and the numbers went down.  We capped economic migration from outside the EU, and – despite the growing economy – the numbers remained stable.  Overall, after my first two years as Home Secretary, net migration – which had reached 320,000 in 2005 – fell to 154,000.

Since then, however, the numbers have doubled once more. One of the reasons is student visas. And let me be clear about students.

We welcome students coming to study.  But the fact is, too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out.  If they have a graduate job, that is fine.  If not, they must return home. So I don’t care what the university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students, yes; over-stayers, no. And the universities must make this happen.

Another reason is European migration. For years, net migration from within the EU was balanced. The number of people coming to the UK was matched by the number of Brits and Europeans moving to other EU countries. In recent years, the figures have become badly unbalanced – partly because our growing economy is creating huge numbers of jobs.

The numbers coming from Europe are unsustainable and the rules have to change.  At the moment, for example, workers coming to the UK on very low salaries can claim over £10,000 on top of their salary in benefits – which makes the UK a hugely attractive destination.  This is not good for us – or for the countries those people are leaving.

That is why the PM is right to target the amount we pay in benefits for those coming to the UK to work, and put these arrangements on a sensible basis.

So those are the main reasons why net migration is still too high.  But the trouble is, other changes mean that without the right policies it’s going to get even harder to keep the numbers down.  Modern forms of communication, cheaper international travel, and the increase in relative prosperity for many people in the developing world mean that larger numbers of people are more mobile than ever before.  And this is compounded by several other factors.

For years, despite its many other flaws and its criminal leadership, Libya was known as Europe’s ‘forward border’.  British immigration officials worked there with their European and Libyan counterparts to stop illegal immigration from Africa at its source.  Now the criminal gangs that smuggle people into Europe have been able to work unimpeded.  Free movement rules don’t just mean European nationals have the right to reside in Britain, they now mean anybody who has married a European can come here almost without condition.  And Schengen – the agreement that abolished borders between EU states apart from Britain and Ireland – means that once a migrant arrives in a country with weak border controls, like Greece, they can make their way across Europe and into Germany, or up to the British border at Calais, without checks.  Many of those people will eventually get EU citizenship and the free movement rights that come with it.

Even actions taken with the best of intentions have consequences.  When the German Government, motivated by compassion and decency, said they expected to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, it prompted hundreds of thousands of people to try to get to Germany.  Some of these people were refugees coming directly from Syria or the camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, but many – in fact, up to half of them – were migrants from other parts of the world.  

So reducing and controlling immigration is getting harder, but that’s no reason to give up.  As our manifesto said, ‘we must work to control immigration and put Britain first’.

We have to do this for the sake of our society and our public services – and for the sake of the people whose wages are cut, and whose job security is reduced, when immigration is too high.

And there’s another reason.  Without controlled immigration, there will be less public support for taking in refugees.  And – while we cannot solve every problem in every corner of the world by granting asylum to everybody in difficulty – we do have a moral duty to help people in need.  We should play our part.’ (Independent, 6 October 2015, link).

Please – if you want to help our country take back control of migration, and get it back down to sustainable levels like those experienced in the 1990s – vote for me and Theresa May this Thursday – on 8 June.