Following up on Ed Miliband’s recent speeches on immigration and integration, Yvette Cooper has today put a little more meat on the bones of Labour’s immigration policy. In a piece for PoliticsHome (which we understand was written in close collaboration with the leader’s office) Cooper has begun to sketch out what the party’s approach to immigration might look like.
Clearly based on Ed Miliband’s recent speech we should be expecting a great deal of focus on language for incoming immigrants, but what might we expect from a Labour immigration policy based on Yvette Cooper’s intervention? Here are the three things that stand out:
Positive and negative immigration – there’s a clear focus in Cooper’s piece on differentiating between immigration which has a positive impact and immigration which merely serves to place pressure on society and the immigrants themselves. Failure to forsee the level of immigration from Eastern Europe is something that the party has apologised for before, but there’s now a clear focus on the need for high skilled immigrants. Interestingly, the argument is made by Cooper that immigration which doesn’t work for Britain is also immigration that doesn’t work for the immigrants themselves (as they end up in low paid jobs/low quality housing/exploited by unscrupulous employers).
Removing the net immigration target? – Cooper notes that the Tory net immigration target is somewhat farcical as it meeting government targets will rely on British people leaving the UK (or staying away) and the loss of overseas students who boost the economy. Could this be a precursor to Labour abandoning net immigration as a measure in government? It certainly sounds like it.
Cracking down on illegal immigration – Cooper and her team are clearly aggrieved by the failure of the Tories to deal with illegal immigration, especially as the UK Border Agency faces cuts. She suggests that illegal immigration threatens to deligitimise other forms of legal immigration (and asylum), and suggests arrest powers for UK Border Authority agents is one potential way of reducing illegal immigration and reducing the risk of illegal immigrants absconding from ports and airports.
Cooper’s approach does – on the face of it – seem “tougher” than Miliband’s. Yet what is striking is to hear the change of influence away from just the negative impacts of immigration on the existing population – and towards the idea that immigration must work for immigrants too.
That’s a subtle but important shift in Labour’s messaging.