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The public should have more of a voice in the debate on Britain’s immigration choices after Brexit, according to a new report today from the National Conversation on Immigration, the biggest-ever public consultation on the issue – released as Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee publishes the report of its own inquiry on immigration.

Co-ordinated by British Future and Hope not Hate, the National Conversation has conducted citizens’ panels in over 40 towns and cities in every nation and region of the UK, from Southampton to Shetland. It asks citizens what they think about different flows of migration, its impacts and benefits nationally and in their local area, and what approach Britain should take to immigration after it leaves the European Union. It examines common themes as well as local differences.

It will visit a total of 60 locations overall, holding over 130 meetings with members of the public and with local stakeholders concerned with immigration.

This model of public engagement with important policy decisions is one that could be taken up by government on an ongoing basis and replicated across a range of issues.

Interim findings from conversations to date include:

  • Most of the public are ‘balancers’, seeing both pressures and gains from immigration. While there is disagreement on immigration, there is much agreement too.
  • Getting integration right and addressing local pressures on housing and schools emerged as key themes across many locations.
  • As well as some common themes there are significant differences from place to place. People view immigration, positively and negatively, through its impact on the place where they live.
  • Contribution is important: people want migrants to make a contribution to Britain, through the skills they bring, jobs they do and through taxation.
  • Participants had strikingly different views about different types of migration, such as high-skilled and low-skilled migration, international students and workers who do specific jobs such as fruit-picking and care work.
  • People lack trust in the Government to control who comes into the UK through checks to exclude criminals and enforcement of immigration rules.

The National Conversation provides an opportunity for members of the public to have their say on immigration policy after Brexit in a way that will be heard by decision-makers. Its interim findings are submitted as evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry. The report draws on the first 30 locations visited.

As well as the citizens’ panel, in each location the National Conversation researchers meet local organisations, councillors and business leaders to hear their views. National opinion polling will take place in 2018 and an open online survey allows everyone in the UK to have their say in the National Conversation.  A final report will be published later this year, incorporating the poll findings and survey results together with recommendations.

Which industries can bring in migrant workers – and which cannot – will be one of the defining questions in migration policy if the UK Government ends free movement after Brexit, according to a new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.  The new report, Labour Immigration After Brexit: Trade-offs and Questions about Policy Design, considers the options for post-Brexit labour immigration policy and their potential ramifications.

The report notes that reducing EU migration after Brexit is a key government objective. However, deciding how and where to achieve such reductions is not a simple statistical exercise but involves a series of subjective, political decisions. Some industries and businesses will see bigger impacts than others, and deciding which ones should be allowed to bring in migrant workers could be a contentious process.

Perhaps the single biggest question about migration policy after Brexit is how much—if any—of the demand for low- and middle-skilled workers the Government will satisfy, the report argues. The Government has indicated that high-skilled EU workers are not likely to be the main target of measures to reduce migration after Brexit.

The report notes that the Government faces a choice between implementing a tailored migration system which is responsive to differing policy goals (such as supporting specific industries like agriculture or reducing the cost of social care) and a simpler set of rules that can be applied more uniformly across all industries. There are pros and cons to each approach: a tailored system enables the government to put immigration policy at the service of other government objectives like industrial strategy or supporting public services, but is also more complex and harder to implement.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory and author of the report, said: “There’s no single, objective metric to decide which industries should continue to receive new migrant workers after Brexit. The Government will need to juggle several different objectives, like the desire to reduce migration, support particular sectors, or to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union. Some of these objectives will inevitably conflict, so the challenge will be deciding how to prioritise them. Ultimately, a fair amount of political judgment will be needed.”


The triggering of Article 50 should be the cut-off date after which EU nationals in the UK can no longer expect to stay after Brexit, according to the report of an independent Inquiry into the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit, released today. It calls on the Government to make a clear public commitment that the 3 million Europeans in the UK can stay, and should be offered Permanent Residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British citizens.

The Inquiry panel included voices from Leave and Remain, different political parties and from business and trade unions and was chaired by Gisela Stuart MP, former Chair of the Vote Leave campaign. Its remit was to examine how the Government can protect the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit and to make practical recommendations as to how to do this, starting from the premise that this is the right thing to do.

The Inquiry’s report also recommends major changes to the application process for Permanent Residence which, it says, is onerous for the applicant and risks overwhelming the Home Office with one of the biggest single administrative tasks it has ever undertaken. For the two-thirds of EU nationals (up to 2 million people) who have already been in the UK for five years, the Inquiry proposes a streamlined system using Local Authorities’ Nationality Checking Services, which already helps people with the paperwork for citizenship applications. It would also to cap the costs so those affected can secure status with minimum of expense.

Reform of this system is essential, the report suggests: at the 2015 rate of processing it would take 150 years to process the applications of all EU nationals currently in the UK. The Inquiry suggests checking these applications more efficiently using existing Government records held by HMRC, the DWP and the Ministry of Justice. The remaining cases would be processed by a dedicated team at the Home Office.

ICM research for British Future finds that 84% of the British public supports letting EU migrants stay – including three-quarters (77%) of Leave voters – with any future changes to freedom of movement applying only to new migrants.

The full Inquiry panel comprises: Gisela Stuart MP (Chair); Suella Fernandes MP; Kate Green MP; Suzanne Evans, UKIP Deputy Chair; Fraser Nelson, Editor of the Spectator; Seamus Nevin of the Institute of Directors; Owen Tudor of the TUC; Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex; and Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future.

Barrow Cadbury Trust’s CEO Sara Llewellin was asked recently by New Philanthropy Capital to speak on a conference panel about how she thought charities could help heal divisions in society.  Below is an edited blog of her presentation.

It is impossible to do justice to a post-referendum analysis or to go beyond the ‘known knowns’ in a short piece, but for the purpose of this blog there are several key features we need to think about when developing a strategic approach to the coming several years.  The bloody nose given to the political establishment needs attention.  Firstly, although the salient political hook for the Leave Campaign was migration, this was in reality a proxy for being ‘left behind’ by globalisation.  People were sick and tired of being told they benefited from migration when they knew very well that they didn’t or didn’t much.  Most of us who lead charities do and that leads us straight into the heart of a paradox.  We want to heal the very thing we are part of creating.  Or put another way we want to ‘fix’ what’s wrong with other people.  Put like that it sounds pretty top down.

Secondly, it’s not as simple a binary as it first appears.  Lots of the prosperous south voted Leave, Liverpool voted Remain and let’s not even start to unpick the four countries question!  52%/48% is half and half more or less and the voting patterns show not whole areas of the countr(ies) voting one way but most areas voting relatively evenly.  So the divisions are not between places but within them.  Even within families.  Not to say there is no North/South issue, of course there is.  But as charities we are going to have to think much harder about how to be effective, for example, in place based work and what funders sometimes call ‘cold spots’.

Thirdly, and from a practical point of view very importantly for our sector, many of the EU funding streams such as the European Social Fund map right onto the strongest Leave areas.  What are the implications of that for the work of our social sector? I suggest bravery in refocusing should be on our agenda.

Immediately after the referendum we saw a spike in xenophobic and race hate crime.  The good news is that shortly before the referendum British Future polling showed that 67% of eligible voters thought that EU citizens already in the UK should be given permanent leave to remain in the event of a ‘leave’ vote.  Shortly after the Referendum in repeat polling we saw that figure go up slightly.  So we can deduce that the majority of Leavers do not endorse this kind of behaviour.  But we were perhaps complacent too soon.  Yes, the spike has abated but not returned to previous levels.

So the community sector should certainly have a role in ‘holding the line’ in a context where some people now feel they have a licence to abuse.  And we have to walk to the bit of a tightrope where we recognise people’s concerns, recognise they are not born of racism but also draw a line at what we might call ‘decency’.  There is a threshold beyond which it’s not okay to go.  Remainers and Leavers both.

Over the past eight years or so, we and several other foundations have been working together on public attitudes to migration, integration and British identity.  We set up British Future, a new organisation working solely on the issue of opening up dialogue and trying to build a narrative aimed at the ‘persuadable and anxious middle’.  We now have a considerable body of evidence which suggests that about a quarter of British society is actively hostile to migration and about a quarter actively supportive of it.  That half of the population is unlikely to change their views.  The other half are what are called the ‘anxious’ or ‘persuadable’ middle.  About half of those are economic sceptics – typically blue collar workers who are worried about job security, their children’s futures, wage stagnation and access to housing and public services.  The other half are cultural sceptics, worried that ‘this doesn’t feel like my country any more’ or ‘when I get on the bus I cannot hear any English spoken’.  Opening a dialogue with these two groups needs differentiated approaches.  And what we have found, among many other things, is that listening is more important than lecturing.  If you give people a diet of facts and evidence, it is not only ineffective, it is counter-productive.  We need much more of this more open dialogue because migration isn’t going away any time soon.

What makes people feel powerful, autonomous, in control?  This is a key question for our sector because the Leave Campaign’s greatest success was the slogan ‘Take back control’.  What are we going to offer people so that they feel they are getting that?  The only possible answer to that is ‘bottom up’ not ‘top down’ – communities organising and delivering their own visions.  There’s a lot of noise in our sector about enabling voice but it is a difficult thing to do well and is often more neglected than pursued.  And we would do well to hear in mind the disability movement slogan ‘Nothing about us without us’.

A lot of the best work welcoming newcomers has come from the faith communities and we would be wise to build on that.  In fact we would be wise to build on existing infrastructure in general because new initiatives take years to mature.  So we should be seeking and brokering alliances at the local level, while at the same time promoting good bridge building work on a national scale.  Last year we and others convened a meeting of funders to listen to key leaders in the migration sector about the refugee emergency.  What they told us was that the unprecedented outpouring of good will in this country would waste, evaporate and even sour if not harnessed.  So we set up a new, pooled fund for refugee and migrant welcoming work at the very local level.  It is managed for us by the UK Community Fund and so far is going very well.  Its focus is on the welcome given rather than the welcome received.

I have been convening and chairing a series of meetings with foundations in the UK and in Europe on the implications of the Brexit vote.  Some of the practical things to emerge are concerns about European Social Fund for example.  One of my reflections on that is – who is going to lobby for poorer people and communities when it comes to divvying up the UK cake?  The universities, the farmers and the scientific communities are all working their socks off on this already and have capacity to act.  I suggest this is one of our own sector’s responsibilities.

And finally, a word or two about putting our own houses in order, or as the young people would say, checking our privilege.  Much of the charity sector still reflects our patrician roots.  Certainly the charities of any size are suffering declining public trust such that we are less trusted now than the supermarkets.  I think that illustrates that we are part of the problem unless we consciously, deliberately and purposefully make it otherwise.  So for me part of what the Leave vote told me was to increase transparency and accountability and to beware of parachuting into other peoples’ realities without consulting them.

Of course there is good, solid community-building work in lots and lots of places.  But it is not unusual for different communities to be building their own social capital in parallel universes.  Where in the past we have thought of that in terms of race and ethnicity, particularly in some of the northern cities, should we now be turning our attention to broader bridge building and shared endeavours?  The Sustainable Development Goals do now offer a framework for this and I urge you all to take a good and considered look at them.  With the strapline ‘leave no one behind’ the major change from the Millenium Development Goals is an insistence that these goals are not only about the global south, they are about all people everywhere.  We have to start decreasing the gap in equalities in every place, not just between richer and poorer nations, if we are to heal the divisions which have been so sharply revealed.

New analysis from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has concluded that it is not possible to estimate the economic impact of post-Brexit migration with any sort of confidence.   ‘Project unclear: uncertainty, Brexit and migration’ finds that predictions about the effects on the economy of migration after Brexit should be treated with caution. The report says that questions around what treaty agreements or migration policies would follow as a result of Brexit will not be resolved before the Referendum, preventing any clarity about how EU migration flows would be affected by a vote to leave.


The report also suggests that an EU exit for the UK could mean tighter controls on the migration of EU citizens. It found that some non-EU countries however, like Norway and Switzerland have implemented free movement in return for access to the EU’s single market.


Read the full report here