In a speech that
could have has been given by a UKIP spokesman, Home Secretary Theresa May said that mass immigration is making it “impossible” to build a “cohesive society”.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, May adopted a decidedly Farage-esque tone, saying that immigration at the levels Britain has witnessed over the past decade is “not in the national interest”, and attacked the “open-borders liberal left.”
May, who is considered a possible successor to Prime Minister David Cameron, clearly tried to position herself on the right of the party with a speech that was heavy on foreign affairs, using her strongest language to date on the subject of immigration.
“When immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society,” she said.
“It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.”
Imitating UKIP’s 2015 manifesto, May pledged to crack down on migrant benefits, abuses of student visas and attacked EU free movement rules.
And she directly lifted lines from an interview between Breitbart London and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, citing the immigration of Huguenots from France, Jewish refugees, and Ugandan Asians.
She also resurrected the government’s pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, but did not go into details about how should would achieve this.
“Even if we could manage all the consequences of mass immigration, Britain does not need net migration in the hundreds of thousands every year. Of course, immigrants fill skills shortages and it’s right that we should try to attract the best talent in the world, but not every person coming to Britain right now is a skilled electrician, engineer or doctor.
“The evidence – from the OECD, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and many academics – shows that while there are benefits of selective and controlled immigration, at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero. So there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade.”
She also stressed the enormous pressure immigration puts on housing and infrastructure.
“We need to build 210,000 new homes every year to deal with rising demand. We need to find 900,000 new school places by 2024. And there are thousands of people who have been forced out of the labour market, still unable to find a job.”
In her speech, May also became the first minister to speak in any depth about the migrant crisis in Europe, recognising that many of the so-called ‘refugees’ are in fact economic migrants: “Their desire for a better life is perfectly understandable, but their circumstances are not nearly the same as those of the people fleeing their homelands in fear of their lives.
“There are millions of people in poorer countries who would love to live in Britain, and there is a limit to the amount of immigration any country can and should take. While we must fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need, we must also have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country.”
Last year, the government admitted it had been defeated in its bid to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. May told the Telegraph at the time that the government had been “blown off course” on the policy.
“That’s partly because our economy is doing better than other economies in Europe. So it’s now unlikely that we’re going to meet our tens of thousands target by the end of the Parliament.”
The government has yet to outline how it will reduce migration so drastically.