This section highlights conversation topics from our platform and does not represent the GovFaces official position.
Immigration has been one of the major topics of discussion in Britain in the past few years, and has consequently been central so far in this campaign, with most parties agreeing that immigration is an issue in itself, and that a policy change is needed. Portsmouth has been no exception.
Last month, passport checks on travelers leaving Britain were brought in, a measure which the Home Office claims will help in forming a more accurate picture of “who is staying in the country when they have no right to be here”. The exit checks will particularly affect cross-Channel and Channel Tunnel travellers, with passengers arriving at the port of Dover having to have their passports scanned and verified.
Flick Drummond, the Conservative candidate for Portsmouth South, stated in a GovFaces reply that:
“It is important that we get skilled workers and that the vacant jobs are not capable to be filled by local people. There is a lot of concern about immigration in Portsmouth, it is probably the biggest issue on the doorstep. Therefore, politicians have to listen and make sure that immigration is controlled and appropriate.”
The Conservative Party platform is even more specific about the issue:
Labour, on the other hand, pledges to “control” immigration by hiring an extra 1,000 border staff, increasing the powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and banning the recruitment of only overseas workers. Migrants will not be able to claim benefits for two years, or send child benefit overseas. People working in public facing roles in the public sector will be required to speak English.
In a recent address in front of the Portsmouth Guildhall, UKIP leader Nigel Farage restated his position that the UK should have “proper” border controls, along with a work permit scheme for migrants and a system not unlike that of Australia, where “you have to be under 45 and you have to have a skill or a trade to bring that will better [British] society”.
This point was echoed by fellow UKIP candidate Mike Fitzgerald, who answered a question on immigration put to him on GovFaces by saying:
” I absolutely believe [immigration laws] need to be re-evaluated. Any sovereign state needs to have control over its borders to manage the quantity and quality of people entering its country, and for security. This power should never have been given to the EU in the first place. […] laws need to be under our control and be based upon a much fairer, non-racist Australian style points system set against our needs as a country. “
Also on the topic of the EU, Mr. Fitzgerald argued that “they need us more than we need them” and that “only 9% of our trade is with the EU,” adding that no “significant losses would occur in our region or country” should Britain leave the EU.
This contradicts two of the largest German think tanks which have recently warned that a UK exit would cost the domestic economy up to £225bn by 2030 – roughly 14% of the country’s GDP. Similarly, Dr. Paul McVeigh, Senior Lecturer in International (Economic) Relations at the University of Portsmouth, argued on GovFaces that
“The sovereignty we get back from leaving the EU is a paper sovereignty: on paper we can make our own decisions on lots of issues. But we will not be sovereign against the decisions of the global market, larger powers and blocs and of course the EU itself; it can impede our access to the EU market and assuming it does take that approach we lose lots of investment and jobs and our wages have to fall to break back into a market which will now be more expensive fur us to access. We’ll have less bargaining power in the world trade context also.”
Ultimately, an exit would be risky and at best will bring only minor and short-term advantages.
Other studies suggest Britain could be better off outside the EU if it forged free trade agreements with emerging markets such as China and India. A report backed by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) showed the economic benefit to Britain would be £16.1bn – or 1.1pc of GDP.
All in all, it seems like immigration is inextricably tied to the UK’s EU membership, and that the latter is not to be treated lightly, with more information being required for the British public to make a solid and sustainable decision.
Andrei Cazacu is a graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University and holds an MA in International Public Policy from Osaka University.