If Cameron wants to reduce debt, he needs more immigrants

A high level of immigration helps to reduce government borrowing, says the OBR.

If David Cameron really wants to pay off "the nation's credit card", he might want to adopt a less restrictive immigration policy. One of the headline findings of today's Office for Budget Responsibility Fiscal sustainability report is that a high level of net migration helps to reduce government borrowing. It notes:

Higher net inward migration than in our central projection – closer to the levels we have seen in recent years, for example – would put downward pressure on borrowing and PSND, as net immigrants are more likely to be of working age than old age than the population in general.

As the graph above shows, while zero net migration would see the national debt rise to more than 160% of GDP by 2060-61, a policy of high migration would see it increase to little more than 40%. Yet Cameron, who has described deficit reduction as the "guiding task" of the coalition, seems determined to impose even more restrictions on immigration, recently suggesting that the UK could block Greek migrants from entering the country if Greece leaves the euro. Reducing net migration "from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands", as Cameron aims to do, would significantly weaken the economy. But the PM, never one for detail, is unlikely to be swayed by the OBR.

David Cameron talks to UK border agency officials in their control room during a visit to Heathrow terminal 5. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.