The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


Labour MP says something sensible about immigration

Why it would be hypocritical to restrict movement within the European Union.

Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister and MP for Rotherham, has written an excellent piece for the London Evening Standard which attacks the position on immigration taken by some Labour leadership candidates. Ed Balls and Andy Burnham -- both of whom will be appearing with their fellow nominees at tonight's New Statesman leadership debate -- have suggested that Labour lost the election by failing to take a tough enough line on immigration.

In particular, MacShane points out the hypocrisy of the suggestion (made by Balls in Sunday's Observer) that Britain should persuade the EU to reconsider its commitment to open borders.

I wish any minister luck in Dublin as he explains to the Irish why European rules on free movement of people need to be revised. The French have long complained about the 500,000 Brits living in France fiddling benefits for children back home. And let's hope no Spanish politician starts to beat up on the 900,000 Brits living in Spain of whom, at last count, about 90 had learned any Spanish.

That last line also brings up a second point: the woeful track record of Brits at learning other languages. This is something the current government might like to consider, given today's announcement that it would bring forward measures requiring non-EU immigrant spouses to speak English.

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