Nigel Farage has this morning revealed UKIP’s policy on immigration going into the election. Gone is the party’s previous pledge to cap net migration at 50,000, instead they will not adopt an “arbitrary” target. Reading Farage’s explanation for this, it is notable how the tone has shifted away from the anti-immigrant rhetoric of before the European elections.
Farage now talks about how “I feel so passionately about this because my ancestors were migrants”, insisting “what UKIP wants is not to do down migrants”. This is not the rhetoric of those disastrous escalators up the white cliffs of Dover posters.
Farage is right about two things. First, our current immigration system is remarkably unfair. A policy where unskilled workers from Eastern Europe can come to work here but skilled workers from outside of the European Union can’t, simply because of where they were born, is fundamentally discriminatory and illiberal.
It is one of the peculiarities of our politics that the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all seen as more ‘liberal’ – ‘ethical’ even – than UKIP on immigration, when the existing system favouring EU migrants over non-EU migrants is so blatantly unjust.
Second, Farage is correct that there is no promise any party can make about reducing net migration if they want Britain to remain a member of the EU. As has been made clear by Brussels time and time again, freedom of movement is non-negotiable.
The pledges made by the Tories and Labour are so obviously disingenuous that voters – if immigration is their key concern – will see straight through them. UKIP, by contrast, want to leave Europe and then take back control of immigration policy. Whether this is right or wrong is another question, but it is a more coherent policy.