Show Hide image

Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Why am I being blamed for Nigel Evans sex case? (Daily Telegraph)

I was unwilling to be a hypocrite and turn a blind eye, says Sarah Wollaston.

2. I agree with Nick. He’s making a difference (Times)

By stopping the Tory right, the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters, says Philip Collins. 

3. Politically Scotland has already left the union behind (Financial Times)

In many ways the country is so unlike England as to resemble a separate state, writes Janan Ganesh. 

4. Help to Work is a costly way of punishing the jobless (Guardian)

The better the employment figures, the more eager the government is to tighten the screws on those still unemployed, writes Polly Toynbee. 

5. The bust is over. So, too, are the boom years (Times)

Global investors don’t expect strong growth in the years ahead and that’s why they have been selling over-priced stocks, writes Stephanie Flanders. 

6. It’s time Cameron showed Scots that England does care (Daily Telegraph)

Tory indifference and Labour infighting have made heavy work of the pro-Union campaign, writes Benedict Brogan. 

7. Why Labour won't stop talking about the cost of living crisis (Guardian)

We have got the ideas to mend the broken link between the wealth of the country and people's own finances, writes Ed Balls. 

8. A Ministry for Complaints might sound like something out of Monty Python, but if it improves public services, bring it on (Independent)

I am still waiting for a refund I claimed from a train company a year ago, writes Steve Richards. 

9. London has become a citadel, sealed off from the rest of Britain (Guardian)

Ukip and Scottish nationalism are symptoms of public hostility to the overweening power and dominance of the capital, says John Harris. 

10. An undue chill greets Iran’s nuclear spring (Financial Times)

A Tehran with a stake in settling the Middle East’s lethal problems could be transformative, writes David Gardner. 

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.