We need to bring immigration from other European countries under some sort of control.
That is what I argued in the book I published in 2010, Which Way’s Up. So I think David Cameron is quite right to say that this will be his top priority in the renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU that will take place before an in-out referendum in 2017, if he is re-elected as Prime Minister next May.
I strongly believe that Britain benefits from some immigration – economically, socially and culturally. Our care homes and hospitals depend on the skills and commitment of carers who move here from the Philippines and other points east. Lincolnshire’s farmers and growers depend on the hard work and reliability of young men and women who come here from Eastern Europe and Portugal. Our pharmaceutical companies and technology businesses depend on the scientific prowess of young Indians and Chinese. I do not believe that it would be in anyone’s interests for any of these vital activities to be deprived of migrant labour. But I don’t think it is unreasonable for people to expect politicians to get control of immigration and to place limits on the overall numbers.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand welcome a lot of immigrants every year – but they operate a strict points system which ensures that they decide how many people to take in and on what basis. Their citizens accept a steady stream of immigration because they know that their government is in a position to decide who should be allowed into the country and manage the flow of people so that the whole country benefits.
We may not be able to achieve complete control over immigration because the freedom of movement is one of the founding principles of the Treaty of Rome. But I am confident that David Cameron will be able to negotiate a package of reforms that sets much stricter conditions on would-be migrants and leads to a reduction in overall numbers.
That would go a long way to reassuring the British people that our immigration system is run for their benefit and not to satisfy the ideological fixations of Europe’s founding fathers.