Must-Read: Financial Times: Cameron Points Migrant Talent Towards the Exit

Must-Read: Financial Times: Cameron Points Migrant Talent Towards the Exit: “One of the canards of British political discourse is that no one dares talk frankly about immigration…

…Mr Cameron and Theresa May, his home secretary, every year refute this, delivering speeches about controlling the flow of people to Britain’s shores. Welfare rules have been tightened, “bogus colleges” closed down and charges introduced for users of the National Health Service from overseas…. The public’s concern with immigration is easy to explain…. When people born overseas are adding 0.5 per cent to a country’s population every year, the voters have a right to ask why….

For all the condemnation uttered by economists, Mr Cameron’s immigration policy has not, yet, dented UK growth. This may now change. The reason immigration presents a weak flank for the Tories is explained by how they let the issue be framed. In 2010 they promised to reduce net migration “to the tens of thousands”, and have repeated the pledge ever since, despite little sign that the target would be hit. Repetition of an unreachable target gave malcontents a stick with which to beat the prime minister…. Lacking the tools to achieve his goal, Mr Cameron is forced to show how hard he intends to try. This means new rules against offering accommodation, bank accounts or work to illegal immigrants. How enforceable or effective these will be is unclear. To threaten to confiscate the wages of illegal workers borders on the cruel….

But worse is an idea for curtailing the inflow of talent to Britain. Mr Cameron somehow believes that firms barred from employing skilled migrants will react by training up home-grown workers instead. This sort of conceit inspired socialist ministers half a century ago to restrict imports, hoping thereby to incubate a domestic alternative. Usually the business went overseas or simply withered. Britain is fortunate to import foreign workers more skilled than the average. A prime minister set on “winning the global race” should know that hiding from the competition dulls a country’s edge. Its domestic population will not grow any sharper when shielded from the world’s brightest and best.

May 26, 2015

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