18 May 2014

European elections: political posturing on immigration

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid says immigrants to the UK need to learn to speak English to “respect our way of life”, as posturing over immigration intensifies ahead of the European elections.

Political parties tackle immigration

Mr Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants and the first Asian secretary of state, told the Telegraph that people are entitled to expect immigrants to make a contribution to society.

“People want Britain to have more control over its borders, and I think they are right,” he said.

“People also say, when immigrants do come to Britain, that they should come to work, and make a contribution and that they should also respect our way of life, and I agree with all of that. It means things like trying to learn English.”

The Conservative MP’s comments come as the issue of immigration intensifies ahead of the European elections, and follows a bruising interview for Ukip leader Nigel Farage on LBC.

Mr Farage was grilled over his view that “any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door” – a stance that prompted The Sun to accuse the MEP of racism.

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David Cameron, in an interview with Sky on Sunday, insisted that he would not abandon his target to reduce the level of net migration into Britain to below 100,000, despite evidence that migration is rising.

Net migration to the UK was 212,000 for the year ending September 2013 – 58,000 higher than the previous year.

“We are working towards it (the target),” Mr Cameron said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure that we can to deliver it. We should continue to do that.”

However, he said that figures were coming under pressure due to the continuing problems in the eurozone.

“Obviously, as a growing economy, we have seen with the weakness of the eurozone quite a lot of people coming from France and Spain and Italy into the UK,” he said.

‘False promise’

On Sunday, Labour leader Ed Miliband was asked if he would try to match Mr Cameron’s net migration target.

“That’s a false promise. He’s miles away from his promise,” the Labour leader told Sky. “I think what politicians should not be doing is making promises on immigration they cannot keep.

“I’ve changed Labour’s approach on immigration. Look, in the past we know Labour seemed dismissive of people’s concerns. We were wrong. It was actually our attitude which was wrong and needed to change and I’ve changed that.”

Mr Miliband has suggested that Labour could bar migrants from claiming out-of-work benefits for more than six months. He has already pledged to double the wait from three months.

Labour says that immigration to the UK can be brought down without leaving the European Union.

“Now some people might be asking: can we really deal with these concerns and stay within the European Union? My answer is yes,” he said on Friday. “But the EU needs to change.”

Meanwhile, Mr Miliband has also defended Mr Farage – saying he does not think that he is a racist. the Labour leader said: “I think his remarks he made were deeply offensive … I think they were a racial slur but I don’t think of Nigel Farage as a racist himself.”

‘Help us prosper’

The Liberal Democrats also argue that Britain needs to remain in the EU, and say that European money could be used to benefit communities facing change due to migration.

Nick Clegg‘s party passed a policy motion two weeks ago setting out their plans for immigration – including ensuring entry and exit checks at Britain’s borders, encouraging students, business visitors and tourists into the UK, and improving migrants’ language skills.

Sir Andrew Stunell MP said: “We want to welcome to Britain all those who will help us prosper, and focus on weeding out the crooks and traffickers who harm Britain.

“And we plan to make sure every long-term migrant learns English, and that the local pressures on schools and housing are eased for everyone by using European money to deliver for communities facing rapid change.”