Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Don't blame the ratings agencies for the eurozone turmoil (Guardian)

Europe and the eurozone are strangling themselves with a toxic mixture of austerity and a structurally flawed financial system, says Ha-Joon Chang.

2. The SNP can't make the rules and be the ref (Times) (£)

When it comes to the vote it will be about the questions the Nationalists refuse to answer, says Jim Murphy.

3. For too many African-Americans, prison is a legacy passed from father to son (Guardian)

Today is Martin Luther King Day, writes Gary Younge. But with more African-American men facing jail than were enslaved in 1870, there is little to celebrate.

4. What happens when even your supporters don't believe in you? (Independent)

The problem is that Ed Miliband is too clever, unlike Neil Kinnock, who didn't seem clever enough, says Mary Ann Sieghart.

5. There is a golden opportunity to be seized in Asia (Daily Telegraph)

A strong relationship with Asia is a central part of the government's economic strategy, writes George Osborne.

6. After the downgrades comes the downward spiral (Financial Times)

The eurozone has exhausted its toolkit, says Wolfgang Munchau.

7. The only way to save the Union is to stop throwing cash at the Scots - and treat them as equals (Daily Mail)

Cameron should reduce or abolish altogether those anachronistic subsidies from Westminster, argues Melanie Phillips.

8. The Costa Concordia disaster highlights the dangers of super-sized cruise ships (Guardian)

Rapid developments in passenger shipping have not kept pace with safety requirements: this is a wake-up call to the industry, says Andrew Linington.

9. The Church of England needs to forget its silliness about homosexuality (Independent)

The Church's double-speak condemns people to a life without the joy of sexual intimacy, says Chris Bryant.

10. When a Tea Party-style folly comes to Nigeria (Financial Times)

Petrol-subsidy protests are against much needed reform, writes Paul Collier.

Getty
Show Hide image

Leave will leap on the immigration rise, but Brexit would not make much difference

Non-EU migration is still well above the immigration cap, which the government is still far from reaching. 

On announcing the quarterly migration figures today, the Office for National Statistics was clear: neither the change in immigration levels, nor in emigration levels, nor in the net figure is statistically significant. That will not stop them being mined for political significance.

The ONS reports a 20,000 rise in net long-term international migration to 333,000. This is fuelled by a reduction in emigration: immigration itself is actually down very slightly (by 2,000) on the year ending in 2014, but emigration has fallen further – by 22,000.

So here is the (limited) short-term significance of that. The Leave campaign has already decided to pivot to immigration for the final month of the referendum campaign. Arguments about the NHS, about sovereignty, and about the bloated bureaucracy in Brussels have all had some utility with different constituencies. But none has as much purchase, especially amongst persuadable Labour voters in the north, as immigration. So the Leave campaign will keep talking about immigration and borders for a month, and hope that a renewed refugee crisis will for enough people turn a latent fear into a present threat.

These statistics make adopting that theme a little bit easier. While it has long been accepted by everyone except David Cameron and Theresa May that the government’s desired net immigration cap of 100,000 per year is unattainable, watch out for Brexiters using these figures as proof that it is the EU that denies the government the ability to meet it.

But there are plenty of available avenues for the Remain campaign to push back against such arguments. Firstly, they will point out that this is a net figure. Sure, freedom of movement means the British government does not have a say over EU nationals arriving here, but it is not Jean-Claude Juncker’s fault if people who live in the UK decide they quite like it here.

Moreover, the only statistically significant change the ONS identify is a 42 per cent rise in migrants coming to the UK “looking for work” – hardly signalling the benefit tourism of caricature. And though that cohort did not come with jobs, the majority (58 per cent) of the 308,000 migrants who came to Britain to work in 2015 had a definite job to go to.

The Remain campaign may also point out that the 241,000 short-term migrants to the UK in the year ending June 2014 were far outstripped by the 420,000 Brits working abroad. Brexit, and any end to freedom of movement that it entailed, could jeopardise many of those jobs for Brits.

There is another story that the Remain campaign should make use of. Yes, the immigration cap is a joke. But it has not (just) been made into a joke by the EU. Net migration from non-EU countries is at 188,000, a very slight fall from the previous year but still higher than immigration from EU countries. That alone is far above the government’s immigration cap. If the government cannot bring down non-EU migration, then the Leave argument that a post-EU Britain would be a low-immigration panacea is hardly credible. Don’t expect that to stop them making it though. 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.