Monday, June 11, 2012

Immigration: doesn't matter, red or blue, neither of them has a clue...

Today's suggestion that only those with a certain level of income may marry non-EU nationals and bring them to this country is yet another sorry product of an initially stupid policy.

But first, a declaration of interest. I am, as noted in the past, the son of a non-EU migrant to this country who, in truth, has done more for it than most, and I then married a non-EU citizen (less said about that the better). So, perhaps, I'm better qualified than most to comment on the sheer inadequacy of the debate.

The Conservative policy of reducing net migration below a set figure was always going to be a hostage to fortune, given that emigration from the UK is beyond the control of government, as is migration from EU states. But, it was as popular as it was intellectually bankrupt, and given the damage wreaked by the media on the only major party daring to propose something workable, it ended up as the only show in town, with Labour equally adept at pandering to the mob.

There was a catch, however, as there tends to be when you substitute populism for policy, in that, having 'won' the election, they were expected to implement their proposal. And since then, we have seen a series of damaging, short-sighted ideas designed to achieve a futile goal at great expense.

Students coming to this country to study count in the migration figures, so making it harder for them to come was an obvious 'easy win'. And yes, greater scrutiny of fake educational institutions was an obvious step. However, making it much harder for genuine students to get visas has successfully reduced income for our universities as potential students go to the US, Canada and Australia. And given that a university such as University of East Anglia has a turnover of £200 million per annum, employs thousands and supports thousands more, that makes a big difference in economic terms. And as for the loss of influence when they return to their emerging markets...

And now we want to punish people for falling in love - whilst on the other hand saying how much we believe in the nuclear family (is that one that occasionally goes bang, leaving a devastated wasteland behind it?).

Yes, it may address some abuse, although 25,000 people is probably over-optimistic in terms of impact, and wildly exaggerated in terms of the level of abuse, but, as Chris Bryant notes, it does rather suggest that you need a degree of wealth to marry a foreigner. However, that's as far as his argument goes before he becomes equally wrong.

If the financial income mark is set at £20,000, that isn't rich, not by anyone's standards. And then, having set the wealth bar ludicrously low, he suggests that those wanting to bring a non-EU spouse into the United Kingdom should post a bond. And where, pray tell, would those on relatively low incomes find the money for that bond? Only those with decent incomes, or with savings, would be able to do so, and I find myself wondering how that enables Mr Bryant's 'poor people' to marry as they choose?

You could, if you are (** IRONY ALERT **) really worried about those ghastly foreigners coming over here and scrounging off of our oh so generous benefits system, set a qualifying period during which benefits cannot be claimed, which would at least remove the initial hurdle. It would risk unfairness, as bad luck can impact upon any of us at any time (and isn't that, in part, what a welfare state is intended for?), but it would at least remove the initial barrier.

But, with the Conservatives hoist by their own petard, Labour blind to anything but narrow, short-term political advantage, and the Liberal Democrats in fear of being right but providing another stick for the media to beat them with, I can see only too clearly where this is going...

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