Immigrants welcome again

Sajid Javid is signalling change on migration policy. Matthew Partridge reports.

“You certainly can’t accuse Sajid Javid of being afraid to speak his mind,” says Stephen Pollard in the Daily Express. Despite being home secretary for “barely more than a month”, he has already signalled that immigration policy “is going to change”.

In an interview with Andrew Marr at the weekend, Javid made it clear that he wants to reduce restrictions on skilled workers (known as Tier 2) and hinted that he wants to take students out of migration figures. Although he said that he was bound by the Tories’ manifesto commitment to a net immigration target of “tens of thousands”, he refused to endorse it, says Steven Swinford in The Daily Telegraph.

A rethink is needed

A rethink of immigration policy is long overdue, says the Financial Times. During the past decade, the debate over immigration has been “politically poisonous”. This is because “politicians have failed to convey the economic benefits of migration, or to assure an anxious electorate that the country was fully in control of its borders”. This resulted in “pervasive mistrust – prompting the rise of the nativist UK Independence party and, eventually, the vote in favour of Brexit”. There is a strong case to be made for “an approach that supports economic growth while also making clear that the authorities can answer a basic question: who is leaving and entering the country”.

One obvious measure would be to scrap the net immigration target of 100,000, especially since there has not yet been a year in which this has been achieved, says The Times. Net migration is “running at close to 250,000 a year”. This has proved not only “useless” policy, but also “bad” policy, as it encouraged “zealous officials” to create an environment “hostile for all immigrants, legal and illegal”.

The immigration target should be abandoned and Javid is “spot on” to suggest that Tier 2 should be relaxed, says The Sun. However, it’s also important to recognise that “immigration must fall” since the numbers arriving here have “put an enormous strain on our hospitals, schools, housing and transport” and are “not sustainable”. The overall goal of any policy changes should be “a level of immigration that benefits our economy without further overwhelming the country”.

In his “desire to present a more human face at the Home Office”, says the Daily Mail, Javid must “not forget” that his job is to reduce the annual 240,000 net migration figure, “not increase it”.

He’ll have a fight on his hands

If he wants to loosen immigration rules, he’ll have a fight on his hands, says Fraser Nelson in The Spectator. Theresa May is strongly opposed to “any relaxation of any immigration rules”. She moved Jo Johnson from his post as universities minister because he campaigned to have foreign students removed from the net figure and Javid’s predecessor Amber Rudd bears “scars on her back” from her fights over Tier 2 immigration.

Nevertheless, on this occasion Javid has cabinet colleagues onside. The question is whether, as a result, May will “now listen to him and change the Tier 2 policy”.