The numbers game
Part of the problem with the immigration debate is it tends to be dominated by myths perpetuated by Tabloids that have little if any foundation in fact.
Take for example the silliness regarding recent immigration figures, which had Farage and the bigot brigade practically foaming at the mouth. He mumbled something about not sticking to any actual targets but getting the figure down to the tens of thousands (which kind of sounds like setting a target?), which would of course be impossible and entirely undesirable.
For example of those entering the UK (to reside) 83,000 of them are British or have British passports. Entrants to the UK last year also included 180,000 students (from the EU or beyond indeed most come from outside the EEA). And of course its worth remembering that the vast majority of migrants come from outside the EU.
This of course highlights the absurdity of anyone suggesting they could get net migration down to tens of thousands per year. They would break that quota within a few weeks, unless the proposed stopping all students entering and banned British people from leaving or entering the country (perhaps they could do what North Korea does, and take a family member hostage to make sure Brit’s come back!)
And its worth remembering the country does need migrants to deal with shortages in many key sectors. Ask anyone who owns a business. Indeed its worth highlighting the energy sector, as there is an urgent need for the UK to upgrade its entire energy generation capability, both in terms of fossil fuel plants, renewables and the UKs nuclear industry. One of the major issues is that many who work in th energy sector (in particular nuclear power) are close to retirement age, meaning we need to recruit workers both to replace them, but also build new power stations and decomission the old ones. As it is there is a big question mark how this could be achieved without bringing in lots of workers from outside the UK.
The reality is its all well and good pointing to the unemployment figures, however its not as if an employer in, say the nuclear industry, can wander down to the local jobs centre and put a couple of jobseekers in charge of radioactive material. Unless UKIP/Tories are suggesting we implement some sort of Soviet style policy of jobs for the boys, then other measures are needed to tackle unemployment.
One is quickly forced to the conclusion that whoever in the Tory Party or UKIP who came up with this tens of thousands figure hadnt actually bothered to read the UK migration statistics and was simply relying on the ridiculous scare stories he was reading in the tabloids or the ravings of xenophobic bigot organisations such as Migration Watch.
Point not taken
Similarly there is the idea of the UK introducing a points system for migrants, including those coming in from the EU. One of the things the UKIP bigot brigade often claim is that they just want to introduce a points system to control immigration, much as Canada and Australia use similar systems. However this policy starts to look absurd when you actually look at it more closely.
While it is true that Canada, Australia and several other countries do apply a points system for incoming migrants coming from countries such as the UK who are seeking to relocate permanently, they dont apply the same system for migrant workers coming from nations closer to home.
For example a Kiwi trying to enter Australia for some extended period (e.g. to work temporarily in the country, an extended holiday, meet up with his Sheela, maybe all of the above) can apply for a SCV (Special Category Visa). The Aussie government website seems to imply that, so long as our Kiwi didnt have any criminal convictions or major or obvious health complications (or at the least, health cover to deal with this), he can pretty much apply for this at the border.
This Visa only grants temporary license to reside, although Australian law does legally treat SCV holders in the same manner as all other permanent residents. However, if our Kiwi wanted to permanently live in Australia, then presumably he would have to go through the normal channels to stay for good (but then again so long as hes got some sort of skill or a job I cant see the Aussies kicking out a tax payer). Its important to remember that the majority of EU migrants would fall into this category, as the bulk of them have no intentions of staying permanently in the UK in any event.
Canada too has similar relationships with the US. Canadians can enter the US (or visa versa), bypassing the normal naturalisation processes, for work related purposes, by applying for a temporary visa of some kind (there are various categories depending on circumstances). If an American decides he wishes permanently to make his home in Canada, or perhaps become a Canuck himself, he will have to apply for permission to do this. However so long as hes got some sort of skill or a connection to Canada (i.e. a relative or spouse) this shouldnt be difficult to achieve (so long as hes not a convicted felon or something!).
And if you think about it these rules make sense. Canada and the US are one anothers biggest trading partners and it would be economic suicide to interfere in this trade, something that harsh immigration rules (of the sort UKIP propose) would ultimately mean. Similarly can you imagine the reaction if Aussie PM Tony Abbot went on radio and said how hed be worried if a load of Kiwis moved in next door. Hed be laughed off as some sort of idiotic xenophobe .and probably get called a daft dingo or something.
So in essence the only difference, between the UK’s current arrangement with the EU and how Australia and/or the US or Canada treats migrants from its neighbours, is that these countries have a more paper work involved and a bit more wriggle room in terms of stopping people liable to cause problems (e.g. criminals, migrants with no hope of actually getting a job). However one has to question whether this is a good thing, when you consider the costs of such controls (UK border staff are stretched as it is, further controls will mean more costs and higher taxes).
And one also has to highlight the hypocrisy of US, Canadian and Australian immigration policy. Whereby politicians have to get tough on migration to pander to the bigot brigade, but on the other hand they realise that migration is crucial to keeping the wheels of industry turning. Hence they are all too aware that large numbers of migrants are slipping through the cracks which they quite deliberately do very little about, as they know that will have certain special interests groups wailing if they so much as do anything (such as for example, putting up a border fence). And from time to time when the numbers of undocumented migrants starts to reach numbers that are just embarrassingly high, these governments are forced to bring in some sort of amnesty or change in the law to allow another tranche of them to reside permanently, something Obama was recently forced to do.
I would certainly agree that there is perhaps a need to stop the tiny number of actual benefits tourists to the UK (the overwhelming majority of migrant to the UK work and they are far more likely to be employed and paying taxes than UK citizens) as well as tighten up existing EU rules restricting the movements of criminals (although migrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes than British citizens). As recent court rulings suggest, the EU does seem to be agreeable to such measures and I cant see it being too hard to persuade fellow EU leaders (whove perhaps seen the movie the Italian job!) of the need to stop criminals crossing national borders. So clearly, leaving the EU would probably hamper these efforts rather than aiding them.
And of course one has to consider that the economies and demographics of Australia and Canada are very different from the UK. In the UK we have a largely services heavy economy and an ageing population and thus a need to bring in young tax payers, preferably without families, or young families, to help pay the pensions of British retirees. To apply the migration rules of another country (and in a way that completely ignores the fundamental rules of how those countries operate their migration policy) would be bonkers.
In short one is again forced to the conclusion that neither the tabloid journalists, nor UKIP, nor the Tories have actually bothered to even read up on what the immigration policies they advocate are. They are in essence pulling policy ideas out of their rear ends!