Morning Briefing: Migration policy is 'blindfold' Brexit - Rudd says People's Vote plausible - how green a watchdog?
The government’s inability to work out what it’s immigration policy will be is the latest example of its blindfold approach to Brexit.
Burdened with the vague Leave campaign promise to “control our borders”, Theresa May has decided to once again kick the can down the road. We won’t know the details of the new immigration system until 2020, and even when we do a further five-year fudge will let EU workers come to the UK to look for work until 2025. The number of people coming to the UK could stay at a similar level, according to unnamed “Home Office officials” cited by the Independent.
What’s more, the government can’t seem to decide among itself how it wants migration to look in the future. Tension between May and home secretary Sajid Javid over the hopeless “tens of thousands” net migration target was palpable yesterday.
Meanwhile, a question mark now hangs over the idea of a £30,000 salary threshold for uncapped numbers of visas for “highly skilled” workers – which allow people to stay on a permanent basis. May has previously backed the proposal, while the chancellor and other business-minded ministers want it lowered. The final figure is “likely to be closer to £21,000”, according to a “cabinet source” cited by the Guardian.
To cap it all off, the government’s new White Paper admits that “any agreements we eventually reach with the EU relating to mobility will be fully compatible and incorporated into our future (migration) system”. That means post-Brexit migration policy depends on what sort of deal the UK cuts with the EU. That could take years.
Businesses are understandably concerned by restrictive policies in the government’s latest proposals. Making the UK so uninviting to EU workers over such a short period of time will likely exacerbate staffing shortages in key sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, hosptiality and construction. An idea to replace permanent EU staff with a churning system of one-year visas is also not an appealing prospect.
EU migration is good for the UK. In 2016/17, EEA migrants paid £4.7 billion more in in taxes than they received in welfare payments. More taxes means more money to fund public services and tackle the inequalities which caused Brexit in the first place.
The farcical process really is a perfect replication of May’s approach to Brexit. It’s bad for the economy, it’s not what anybody voted for, and we won’t know what the policy will actually look like until well after we’ve left. It’s a mess. The only way forward is a People’s Vote.
Video of the Day
Rudd: People’s vote ‘plausible’
May loyalist Amber Rudd has described a People’s Vote as “plausible” if Parliament rejects the dodgy deal on offer, telling ITV that “if Parliament failed to reach a consensus, I can see there would be a plausible argument” in favour of a referendum. Rudd prefaced her comments by saying that she doesn’t want such a vote, but added she can “see the argument for taking it back to the people again”. That argument will grow stronger in coming weeks as it becomes there’s no majority for any form of Brexit in Parliament, and handing the decision back to the people is the only way to break the deadlock.
Quote of the day
“I can see the argument for taking it back to the people again, as much as that would distress many of my colleagues”.
Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd admits that there’s a strong case for a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
This from Jess Phillips, one of the many Labour MPs urging the party leadership to back a People's Vote.
How green is that watchdog in the window?
While May tries to convince Parliament to back her blindfold Brexit, the government’s policy on its new “Office for Environmental Protection” exposes just how much we don’t know about what comes next. The OEP will supposedly take on the EU’s current role of watchdog, taking the government to task and potentially to court when it flouts environmental regulations. The small problem is that we have no idea how the watchdog will work, how independent it will be, or whether it will be sufficiently funded. Environment campaigners are concerned.
Graphic of the Day
This is slightly awkward: Brexit means the UK will drop from fifth largest economy in the world to seventh next year! A smaller economy means less money to spend on our priorities like the NHS. Demand a People's Vote!
More Brexit news…
EU reveals no-deal plans (BBC)
David Aaronovitch: Don’t fall for Brexiteers’ violent prophecies (Times £)
Denis MacShane: Businesses ‘watching in horror’ must back People’s Vote (InFacts)
Martin Kettle: This epic fight in parliament could lead to a new, better democracy (Guardian)
Today, Thursday 20th December
|09.30||ONS: Retail sales|
|09.30||Trade questions in Commons|
|PM||Theresa May meeting Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki|
|-||Parliament rises for Christmas recess|
Tomorrow, Friday 21st December
Parliament in recess
ONS: GDP, business investment, consumer trends