Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Amber to Red for the Tories

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th April, 2018

5F9ED72A-789F-44CA-92C7-2238321154A8British Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Amber Rudd has fallen on her sword; her position had indeed become untenable over the weekend with revelations about how much she encouraged the “hostile environment” to “illegal” immigrants and approved of the policy of deportation before appeal, despite having tried to distance herself publicly from it all. The inhuman treatment of the so-called Windrush generation, who had their right to remain in the UK questioned and in some cases refused, was a particularly egregious example of this. Perhaps the final blow to her reputation came with the revelation that the Home Office had refused visas to 100 Indian doctors recruited by the National Health Service (NHS). Under Rudd’s watch, the Home Office has indeed become unfit for purpose. But one could argue that it became so under her predecessor, none other than the now Prime Minister, Theresa May. I can’t help feeling that Mrs May has sacrificed Amber Rudd in the hope of saving her own skin, because frankly it is time for her to acknowledge that old political adage “the buck stops here”. Theresa May was catapulted into the top job when David Cameron resigned after the disastrous outcome of the EU Referendum (which he called largely to try to silence Eurosceptic headbangers on the right of the Conservative Party). But far from proving to be a safe pair of hands, Mrs May has shown herself ready to give ideology precedence over common sense. This shows itself in two, related aspects: immigration and Brexit. The government persists in trying to reach its unrealistic target of getting net immigration down to below 100,000 a year, despite the fact that this is harming not just the NHS but other sectors of the economy too. And despite being a Remainer in the EU Referendum campaign, Mrs May has been pressing ahead with Brexit — again to appease the Tory right — in a most damaging way. The incompetence of the three Brexit Ministers — David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson — would be comic were this all not so serious. Britain’s international reputation has been trashed, not only among our 27 current EU partners but around the world. Moreover, from being the best performing economy among the OECD nations, the UK has crashed to the bottom. Growth was just 0.1% in the last quarter, with the real prospect of recession looming. And we haven’t even left the EU yet! Theresa May is lucky in that she lacks a credible Opposition in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but that should not let her off the hook. The amber light of  Rudd’s resignation should turn to a red light for the PM herself.

Advertisements

Posted in Conservatives, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Richard Howitt at the AEJ

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th July, 2015

Richard Howitt MEPRichard Howitt is one of the most long-standing Labour members of the European Parliament, representing the East of England. As he himself pointed out at a lunchtime briefing for members of the Association of European Journalists (UK Section) at Europe House in Westminster today, that region is best known for its high percentage of UKIP supporters. Some of those can apparently be pretty thuggish; Richard Howitt was literally stoned during the Clacton by-election. However, in the Parliament his main work is on the Foreign Affairs Committee and he is enthusiastic about the (still relatively new) Commissioner for External Relations, Federica Mogherini. He is less impressed by the way that Britain’s Conservative government is handling matters European. I raised the issue of refugees from Syria, whose numbers now exceed 4 million. Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have been shouldering an unfair share of the burden of looking after them and I for one was disappointed that EU member states failed to step up to the plate when the issue of possible quotas was raised at the Riga Summit. Richard Howitt clearly understands the demographic challenges that the UK faces unless it keeps an open door to EU migrants — which is a major reason he supports Turkish membership of the Union. Domestically, he party has hardened its stance on migration and immigration, but not for the first time the Labour MEPs have proved more liberal than their national counterparts, who still nervously guard their backs.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Immigration, Blessing or Curse?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th January, 2014

immigration graphicimmigration graphic 2The Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron, rightly won plaudits from liberal quarters when he said on the BBC’s Question Time last night that immigration is a blessing, not a curse, and that more politicians should be saying so. Doubtless his twitter and other social media timelines are now receiving a lot of very hostile comments, as well; immigration is an issue that tends to polarise the public, with some pretty extreme language being used by those who sing to the tune of the late Enoch Powell. Some of these viscerally anti-immigration voices are motivated by what can only be described as racism, but more often the problem is fear: a fear that immigrants will take jobs at a time of high unemployment among local people, that they’ll put an undue strain on council housing (not that there’s much of that around these days) or the social services and education. Fear can make people say irrational things, which is why it is important to have a measured debate about immigration in this country, based on facts not emotions, avoiding the xenophobic rhetoric and Armageddon prophesies of the more unprincipled Press, such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express. Let me state at the outset that it is a given that no nation in the modern world can have an “open door” policy for unlimited immigration. Britain doesn’t (despite what some UKIPers seem to believe), and shouldn’t. But controlled immigration for a country like Britain is not only desirable but necessary. Given demographic trends among the indigenous population, we need a regulated influx of younger, energetic workers to help pay for the pensions and social care of older citizens. Moreover, as most big businesses accept, for Britain to retain a leading role in key sectors such as financial services and the knowledge economy, we need to attract the brightest and the best from overseas to keep ahead of the curve. There are a couple of other important matters to be taken into consideration, which should also temper the UK immigration debate. The first relates to freedom of movement within the European Union, or EU migration, which should be seen as one of the greatest achievements of the single market and of huge benefit for Britain, both in terms of the workforce that has been attracted here — in all sectors of the economy — and in the opportunities it has given to British subjects living, studying or working in the other 27 EU member states. Instead of adopting the red tops’ negative narrative on freedom of movement, the Conservatives who lead the Coalition government should be championing the benefits. The other issue is the perception of many Brits that the country is “full” and therefore should shut the door completely to EU migrants and immigrants from other parts of the world. This is a false perception largely based on the fact that the UK economy and population are concentrated to an unhealthy degree in London and the South East. The solution to that is to regenerate areas of the country that saw a sharp decline in the post-War period because of the collapse of manufacturing, mining and other industries — and immigrants could play an important role in making that regeneration happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Alternative Liberal Narrative on Immigration?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th May, 2013

immigrationAfter the ALDE (European Liberal Democrats) Council in Pula, Croatia, the Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtables held a seminar on “Illegal Immigration: The Crossing Point” with a thought-provoking initial presentation by Felicita Medved, the (Slovene) President of the European Liberal Forum. Although the main purpose of the ensuing debate was to focus on illegal — or, as Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom has rightly encouraged people to rename it, “irregular” — immigration, in fact the whole issue of immigration in general got debated, with a sharp division emerging between more left-leaning Liberal parties including the UK Liberal Democrats, D66 from the Netherlands and the Swedish Centre Party on the one hand and more right-wing Liberal parties, notably the VVD from the Netherlands and Venstre from Denmark. I was so alarmed by the degree to which one VVD speaker, Mark Verheijen MP, seemed to have wandered on to the territory of Geert Wilders (just as a depressingly large number of British Conservatives have lurched into the openly xenophobic, even racist, anti-immigrant domain of UKIP’s Nigel Farage) that I argued passionately for the urgent need for a new alternative Liberal narrative and vocabulary on immigration. Of course levels of immigration have to be managed, but the positive side to immigration needs to be championed and due recognition given to how it has helped the economies of many EU member states, including Britain. Indeed, thanks to our greying population continued immigration is going to be a necessity if Europe is going to play a significant economic role in the globalised world of the future. The ensuing debate in Pula was so lively that it was fortuitous that the UK LibDems had already suggested the issue could be the subject of another session, associated with the ALDE Congress in London this November. I believe immigration will be the top issue in the European elections next May, thanks to UKIP, and it is essential we LibDems have a persuasive counter-narrative in place by then.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Facing up to UKIP

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th May, 2013

Nigel Farage 2The strong showing by the United Kingdom Independence Party in this week’s county council elections and recent parliamentary by-elections has been causing shudders in Britain’s other political parties and strengthens the hand of right-wing Conservative MPs who have been urging David Cameron to drift towards the UKIP agenda in an effort to stop the haemorrhage of traditional Tory voters. I trust we will not hear any such nonsense from Liberal Democrat parliamentarians. Even though sizable numbers of traditional LibDem voters also probably opted for UKIP this time I believe that was mainly as a form of protest. All three main political parties are suffering from voter disaffection and in particular the LibDems, as unfortunately many people in the UK don’t understand Coalition politics and the fact that as a junior partner in government the Liberal Democrats have only a certain degree of clout. But the really important thing, I believe, is that the Liberal Democrats must be bold enough to confront UKIP’s two main policy planks — anti-immigration and anti-EU — and tackle them head-on. I deliberately put immigration first, despite the fact that withdrawal from the EU is UKIP’s most well-known USP, as I believe the scare-mongering by UKIP regarding immigrants was more effective in garnering votes for the party than Nigel Farage’s attempts to ridicule Brussels. Opinion polls consistently show that for the vast majority of British voters Europe is way down their list of political priorities. But Farage and his colleagues have been steering the anti-immigrant bandwagon in a way that used to be more the role of the BNP and National Front. Farage’s repeated warning about the UK “opening its doors” to 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians from 1 January not only ignore such realities as the fact that the more favoured destinations of Romanians who do want to emigrate are Italy and France, and for many Bulgarians Germany is seen as more desirable because of low housing costs and a growing economy but also propagate the distinctly racist implication that all Romanians — and particularly Roma — are criminals. The LibDems — who currently have a working group looking at immigration and related issues — need to stress how much the British economy has benefited from immigration (which of course has to be controlled but not in an arbitrary fashion). Moreover, with regard to the EU the Liberal Democrats need to be brave enough to stand up and proclaim why leaving the EU would be disastrous for Britain. Certainly some reforms of the EU are needed, but you do not reform an organisation by leaving it. The European debate has been hijacked by UKIP and it is urgent that the alternative case is put strongly — by the LibDems.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Common EU Asylum Policy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 7th June, 2012

Immigration and asylum are twin subjects that are guaranteed to get  Daily Mail columnists’  blood boiling; add the word Europe and the mix is toxic. Except that of course, in the real world, it isn’t. And indeed both the EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are hard at work on the construction of a common EU Immigration and Asylum Policy. This clearly makes sense for countries signed up to Schengen, as people can move freely between them. But the outsiders, including the UK, would do well to be fully involved. This afternoon, as the rainclouds delivered a Jubilee encore, Europe House (London HQ for the European Parliament and European Commission) hosted a seminar on the topic, asking the question ‘Is the UK in or out?’ I’m not sure we got a definitive answer to that, but in the meantime it was fascinating to hear from the very impressive Maltese MEP, Simon Busuttil, who is a leading EPP (centre-right) representative on the European Parliament’s committee dealing with Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. He pointed out that last month, Maltese authorities rescued and brought to land 600 African migrants (mainly from Somalia) from small craft floundering in the sea. On a per capita basis, that is the equivalent of Britain taking in 90,000 refugees/migrants. Malta, Italy and Greece have really received the brunt of the influx of asylum seekers, legal and irregular migrants arriving from North Africa since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring. Obviously these initial host nations cannot be expected to shoulder all of the burden, even though an agreement signed in Dublin means that in principle asylum seekers must apply in the first EU country they arrive at, rather than cherry-picking among the rest. A European resettlement Plan is being discussed, but there is a degree of urgency. According to the EU’s timetable, there is meant to be a Common Immigration and Asylum Policy in place this year, though I suppose any delay could be solved by the old ruse of stopping the clocks at 23.59 on 31 December.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Vince Is Vince

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 14th April, 2011

Business Secretary Vince Cable hit the headlines this afternoon by criticising Prime Minister David Cameron’s new line on immigration. Though Mr Cameron was trying to make the distinction between ‘good’ (limited) immigration and ‘mass’ immigration, Vince is right that this Tory rhetoric can be misconstrued and be seen to be pandering to the far right. Undoubtedly the Conservatives are keen to stop a swing from them to UKIP, even more than they are worried about losing votes to the BNP (who often seem to do better from disenchanted Labour voters). But Cameron is treading on thin ice. Besides, Vince makes an important point: that immigrants from beyond the EU have made and will continue to make a vital contribution to Britain’s economy and potential growth. Of course that doesn’t mean we should have a completely Open Door policy, but it should not be as restrictive as the Prime Minister was implying either. In the meantime, Vince Cable has once again shown himself to be the strong voice of Liberal reason — and he has become just about as close as we have to a political national treasure. Some of his LibDem Cabinet colleagues may wish to excuse some of his comments to their Tory colleagues on the grounds that ‘Vince is Vince’, and therefore something of a law to himself. But he is not just a maverick or even a maverick at all. He is someone who has won great respect and who is listened to, including by many people who normally have little interest in politics. Moreover, at a time when the LibDems as a party and party leader Nick Clegg are (usually unfairly) being treated as whipping-boys by Labour and the media, it is important to have someone like Vince who shows the public (and the House of Commons) that there is a vibrant Liberal Democrat presence within government and one which is not afraid to speak out when the larger partner in the Coalition says or promotes illiberal or unwise things.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Europe and Latin America

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 16th June, 2008

As the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, pertinently reminds us, in a piece in today’s ‘Guardian’, Europe has been a continent of emigration for most of its modern history. The inward flows that have been perplexing some European governments are a very recent phenomenon. When European parliamentarians later this week discuss proposed measures that would deal harshly with undocumented migrants, they would be well-advised to bear that in mind. From the end of the 15th century onwards, Europeans colonised the Americas, plundering the New World of many of its resources, killing off millions of its indigenous inhabitants in massacres or through disease, and transfering more millions of Africans across the Atlantic to work as slaves. In most of the Americas, descendants of those Europeans are now in the majority. And in those few countries where indigenous people are a majority, such as Bolivia, they were until recently treated as an underclass.

There has been a lot of heated debate about immigration in this country, but oddly the Latin Americans are often the ‘invisible’ immigrants, as the media focuses its attention mainly on South Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and Eastern Europeans. Yet there are well over half a million Latin Americans in Britain — a sizeable proportion of them undocumented. You may know some of them if they clean your home, or wait on you in restaurants, though some are now working in various professions and the Arts. In general, they work hard, are pleasant, and rarely create trouble in the wider community. Europeans who migrated to the Americas and did well were hailed as pioneers. Why should Latin Americans who come here be viewed differently?

By coincidence, I had a meeting with the Bolivian Ambassador in London last Friday, to discuss a forthcoming research trip together with the photographer Roland Kemp, which we hope will lead to a series of magazine articles, radio broadcasts and maybe even an exhibition in London. Latin Americans have great affection for London, Britain and Europe as a whole. It would gratifying if those feelings were reciprocated.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »