The General Election is fast approaching and with immigration being one of the major issues, a potential change in government may affect lawyers working in the field
Reports suggest that there will be an increase in people voting for UKIP because of their promises of reducing net migration, but how will their proposed policies and those of the other parties really work in modern Britain?
For lawyers, there is a distinction between European migration and that from other parts of the world. However, from their manifestos it would seem that the parties are not making that same distinction. There is lots of talk about reducing migration, but how?
A referendum on our membership of Europe is top of the Conservative Party agenda, which would change the face of Great Britain. Will we need visas to go on our annual ski holiday and will our European friends be able to pop over for a weekend without the bureaucracy that most non-Europeans have to endure? We do not know.
What happens to the Europeans living and working in the UK, some with British families? Will they be permitted to stay when the door is shut? And what about the Brits that left the UK for sunnier climates?
The Conservatives have further stated that they will make the UK less attractive for people to come and claim benefits. In reality in 2014, 4.9 million (92.6 per cent) working age benefit claimants were British, while only 131,000 (2.5 per cent) were EU nationals. The number of recipients from outside the UK — but not from the EU — was 264,000 (5 per cent). Closing the door on Europe is not the answer to the benefit culture.
Labour will introduce stronger border controls to tackle illegal immigration. Throughout my ten-year career this has always been mooted. Then cutbacks are made and front line staff go. In my experience, however, resources are diverted in penalising genuine applicants when the non-genuine cases are left to fall by the wayside. Labour also want to reduce low-skilled migration. This has already been done and jobs which migrants can do must be graduate0level jobs.
The Lib Dems will also introduce exit checks at borders – something that was abolished by David Blunkett when he was Secretary of State. This measure would only provide statistics and will not have a huge effect on numbers – it could even deter voluntary returns.
UKIP’s Nigel Farage recently blamed his tardiness on congestion – caused, of course, by the rise in net migration. So what does he have to say? Farage wants to introduce a points policy to select the skilled workers required for the UK. This has, of course, been in place since 2008. As such, the only real change is that it will apply to Europeans too, to ensure that no more than 50,000 migrants are able to come per year. While this is likely to increase our work levels, it’s also likely to have a detrimental effect on companies large and small – and might suggest to the rest of the world that the UK is closed for business. UKIP have said, though, that those Europeans who are already in the UK will not be deported in the event of a ‘Brexit’.
The reality is that until May, we do not know which policies will be introduced and which will be rejected. What I do know is that changes since the last election cut deep and hard and separated thousands of families. As an immigration lawyer, I simply want a fair system for all.
Rachel Harvey is an associate immigration solicitor at Cartwright King