Ukip has finally showed its hand on its 2015 election manifesto. Photo: Getty
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Why Ukip's new manifesto ideas are worrying

How many of their new, worrying ideas make it through to the final manifesto will be key in setting the tone of an undoubtedly aggressive campaign by Ukip.

After months of skirting around the question, we’ve been given a good glimpse of what Ukip’s 2015 general election manifesto will look like.

In an interview with Prospect magazine, Tim Aker, Ukip MEP for the Eastern Counties and head of the party's Policy Unit, has shown a hand that, though not unexpected, should be of genuine concern to liberal-minded voters.

First, the good news. Following a line reminiscent of the Liberal Democrat pledges at the time of the last general election, Aker says that his party “want to take low earners out of income tax altogether" with "no tax on the minimum wage”.

So far so liberal from the man charged with writing Ukip's manifesto. However, under the guise of wanting “flatter, simpler and lower taxes”, Akers goes on to say that Ukip will promise to increase the level at which the 40p income tax rate begins to £45,000, and no higher rate will exist – ie. the current top rate of income tax will be abolished completely.

We can debate whether or not this move is regressive all we like, but it doesn't change the fact that if you want to tackle inequality through tax reform Ukip would do much better to focus on evidently regressive taxes such as VAT and council tax, of which there is no mention in Aker’s interview.

More worryingly – and this is something that does seem to fall at a more obvious point on the left/right spectrum – is that “foreign aid is an obvious target” for cuts that Ukip are looking to make to reduce the deficit.

With a target spend of only 0.7 per cent of GDP for 2013-14, this shows a clear misconception of how big an impact cutting official development assistance could have on the nation’s finances, not to mention the good it does overseas.  As of 2010, nearly half the world's population were surviving on less than $2 a day. Less than one penny in every pound of government money is a small price to pay for alleviating this suffering plus, after National Audit Office and House of Lords Committee reviews over recent years, there is now more scrutiny to ensure our aid is spent more effectively.

Further plans to shrink parts of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Business Innovation and Skills will apparently be independently reviewed, but “not by the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility]”.

But it is welfare reform where the Ukip plans really put them further to the right of a lot of Conservatives. (Bar a commitment to scrap the relatively unpopular ‘Bedroom Tax’, which might be driven by popular sentiment than anything else.

Under a Ukip government, the benefit cap would stay and child benefit would be limited to two children. Not so radical, until you read about Ukip's plans for immigrant benefit claimants. Aker says the 2015 manifesto will include commitments to the effect that “new migrants to this country will not be eligible for any welfare benefits until they have been paying tax and national insurance for five years.”

A lot can happen in five years. Perfectly skilled, hard-working migrants could find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own. Over such a long period, its not unlikely that this will happen at some stage, but UKIP plans to deny them access to the same safety net they would provide for British born workers.

As well as a plan to increase the strength of the border force, Aker says that to come to the UK “you must show that you have been working in that profession for 12 of the last 24 months, that you can speak English and that you won’t need tax credits.”

You can almost hear foreign companies crying out to invest in UK business under such conditions, while their most talented new employees wouldn't have a hope of relocating either.

Aker’s policy hints do at least suggest that Ukip is looking to draw bolder distinctions between itself and the main three parties. This is particularly stark in his criticism of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which Aker says was “rushed through” parliament after receiving support from the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats alike. The Ukip pledge of a “complete review of it and the rebalancing of what level of intervention the security services can have in our lives” is an open challenge to them on that front.

“We’re beyond left-right” insists Aker. Even if that’s so, it doesn't make the manifesto he’s drawing up wise, and how many of these ideas actually make it through to the final manifesto will be key in setting the tone of what will undoubtedly be an aggressive campaign by Ukip.

Justin Cash is a reporter at LegalWeek and tweets @Justin_Cash_1

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Staying in the EU would make it easier to tackle concerns about immigration, not less

Brexit is not only unlikely to deliver the control people want, it may actually undermine people’s faith in the system even further.

As Theresa May prepares to set out her latest plan for Brexit in Florence on Friday, those on all sides of the debate will wait to see if there are answers to fundamental questions about Britain’s future outside of the EU. Principle among those is how the UK immigration system will work. How can we respond to Leave voters’ concerns, while at the same time ensuring our economy isn’t badly damaged?

We must challenge the basic premise of the Vote Leave campaign: that dealing with public’s concern about immigration means we have to leave the EU and Single Market.

In fact the opposite is true. Our study into the options available to the UK shows that we are more likely to be able to restore faith in the system by staying within Europe and reforming free movement, than by leaving.

First, there are ways to exercise greater control over EU migration without needing to change the rules. It is not true that the current system of free movement is "unconditional", as recently claimed in a leaked Home Office paper. In fact, there is already considerable scope under existing EU rules to limit free movement.

EU rules state that in order to be given a right to reside, EU migrants must be able to demonstrate proof that they are either working, actively seeking work, or self-sufficient, otherwise they can be proactively removed after three months.

But unlike other continental systems, the UK has chosen not to operate a worker registration system for EU nationals and thus has no way of tracking where they are or what they’re doing. This could be changed tomorrow, if the government were so minded.

Other reforms being discussed at the highest levels within Europe would help deal with the sense that those coming to the UK drive down wages and conditions. The UK could make common cause with President Macron in France, who is pushing for reform of the so-called "Posted Workers Directive", so that companies seeking to bring in workers from abroad have to pay those workers at the same rate as local staff. It could also follow the advice of the TUC and implement domestic reforms of our labour market to prevent exploitation and undercutting.

Instead, the UK government has chosen to oppose reform of the Posted Workers Directive and made it clear that it has no interest in labour market reform.

Second, achieving more substantive change to free movement rules is not as implausible as often portrayed. Specifically, allowing member states to enact safeguards to slow the pace of change in local communities is not unrealistic. While the principle of free movement is a cornerstone of the European project, how it is applied in practice has evolved. And given that other countries, such as France, have expressed concern and called for reform, it is likely to evolve further.

The reforms to free movement negotiated by David Cameron in 2016 illustrate that the EU Commission can be realistic. Cameron’s agreement (which focused primarily on benefits) also provides an important legal and political precedent, with the Commission having agreed to introduce "safeguards" to respond to "situations of inflow of workers from other Member States of an exceptional magnitude over an extended period of time".

Similar precedents can be found within a number of other EU agreements, including the Acts of Accession of new Member States, the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The UK should seek a strengthened version of Cameron’s "emergency brake", which could be activated in the event of "exceptional inflows" from within the EU. We are not the first to argue this.

Of course some will say that it is unrealistic to expect the UK to be able to get more than Cameron achieved in 2016. But put yourself if in the shoes of the EU. If you believe in a project and want it to succeed, moral imperative is balanced with realism and it hardly needs pointing out that the political context has radically shifted since Cameron’s negotiation.

In contrast, a "hard Brexit" will not deliver the "control of our borders" that Brexiteers have promised. As our report makes clear, the hospitality, food, manufacturing and social care sectors heavily depend on EU workers. Given current employment rates, this means huge labour shortages.

These shortages cannot be wished away with vague assertions about "rejoining the world" by the ultra free-market Brexiteers. This is about looking after our elderly and putting food on our tables. If the UK leaves in April 2019, it is likely that the government will continue to want most categories of EU migration to continue. And whatever controls are introduced post-Brexit are unlikely to be enforced at the border (doing so would cause havoc, given our continued commitment to visa-free travel).  Instead we would be likely to see an upsurge in illegal migration from within the EU, with people arriving at the border as "visitors" but then staying on to seek work. This is likely to worsen problems around integration, whereby migrants come and go in large numbers, without putting down roots.

We can do this a different way. The important issues that most drive public concern about EU migration - lack of control, undercutting, pace of change - can be dealt with either within current rules or by seeking reform within the EU.

The harsh truth is that Brexit is not only unlikely to deliver the control people want, it may actually undermine people’s faith in the system even further.

Some will say that the entire line of argument contained here is dangerous, since it risks playing into an anti-immigrant narrative, rather than emphasising migration’s benefits. This is an argument for the ivory tower, not the real world.

There is a world of difference between pandering to prejudice and acknowledging that whilst EU migration has brought economic benefits to the UK, it has also created pressures, for example, relating to population churn within local communities.

The best way to secure public consent for free movement, in particular, and immigration in general, is to be clear about where those pressures manifest and find ways of dealing with them, consistent with keeping the UK within the EU.

This is neither an attempt at triangulation nor impractical idealism. It’s about making sure we understand the consequences of one of the biggest decisions this country has ever taken, and considering a different course.

Harvey Redgrave is a senior policy fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and director of strategy at Crest Advisory.