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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.

The National Conversation on immigration aims to hear the views of people all over Britain. For the whole of 2017 British Future and Hope not Hate will be in a different town every week, across the UK, listening to what people think on the issue.

There are going to be changes to immigration policy in the UK following the vote to leave the EU.  The National Conversation is a chance to bring people together to talk about their differences and find common ground.  The findings of the National Conversation will form part of a major Home Affairs Committee inquiry into immigration, led by influential MPs.

Administered by British Future and HOPE not hate the National Conversation will be regularly updating and sharing the conversations they hear as they travel around the country.

How does it work?

In 60 towns and cities in every region and nation of the UK, the National Conversation will be hosting ‘citizens panels’ to ask people what they think about immigration and the immigration system; it will also hold a stakeholder meeting in each of those towns with local business leaders, community groups, local councils and others with an interest in the topic.

An online survey will give a chance for everyone to have their say, even if the Conversation is not coming to an area.  And national opinion polling will give the National Conversation another way to find out what people think about the issue.

At the same time the Home Affairs Committee will hold public meetings in eight different regions of the UK, as well as calling for evidence to their immigration inquiry through formal evidence hearings. All of the information gathered will be published by the Home Affairs Committee, on their website and in a report that the Government must respond to.

The first locations the National Conversation is visiting are: Bradford in West Yorkshire, March in Cambridgeshire, Witley Bay in North Tyneside, Aberdeen in Scotland, Enfield in London, Trowbridge in Wiltshire, Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and Macclesfield in Cheshire.

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.

In a new report released today, Britain’s immigration offer to EuropeBritish Future sets out a proposal for a new, preferential system for EU immigration to the UK. Such a system, it argues, could secure UK public support for immigration in a managed system which is fair to migrants and host communities; yet remains politically deliverable in Westminster and for the EU and its member states too.  According to the report many think immigration presents an impossible conundrum for the Brexit negotiations.  But could we find a system that helps rebuild trust while continuing to welcome European migration to Britain and, crucially, gives UK negotiators a positive offer to make to the EU as it seeks the best possible trade deal?

The British Future proposal offers preferential European access to the UK labour market as part of a UK deal on trade with the EU. It retains freedom of movement for EU workers above a set skills or salary level: UK attitudes research shows that 88% of the public does not want to reduce the migration of skilled workers that our economy needs.  They would, however, like greater control of low- and semi-skilled immigration, which would be subject to quotas, set annually by Parliament, after consultation with employers and local communities. Importantly, the first opportunity to fill those low-skilled migrant quotas would go to Britain’s preferential trade partners – and the first offer of such a preferential trade and migration deal should be made to the EU.

It is essential that migrant workers are treated fairly and offered routes to settlement and citizenship and we make clear that this is not a guest worker system. We believe this is a constructive offer that is capable of securing support from within the European Union. What’s more, it could help to rebuild public trust in our immigration system here in the UK.  A preferential system would bring unskilled migration under UK control, while still ensuring that employers can recruit the staff they need to keep our economy growing, and our country remains open to the immigration that we want and need.



A new report from British Future, in partnership with London Citizens is calling on London’s mayoral candidates to back a new proposal for an Office for Citizenship and Integration at the Greater London Authority, to be led by a new Deputy Mayor with responsibility for promoting citizenship and encouraging better integration across London.


The report highlights key priorities that the new office could pursue, including:



  • Encouraging more migrants living in London to take British Citizenship
  • Ensuring people can speak English, so they can fully integrate with British Life
  • Promoting greater involvement in civic life and contact between people from different backgrounds
  • Encouraging all young Londoners to register and use their first vote


You can read the full report here

According to a new report by British Future the public strongly support international student migration because they understand the economic and educational benefits brought to Britain by those who come here to study.   The report draws on the results of a nationally representative poll by ICM of 2,111 people, as well as the feedback from six workshops held in York, Bristol and Nottingham. It reveals that:


  • 59% of the public believe the Government should not reduce international student numbers, even if that limits the Government’s ability to cut immigration numbers overall. Only 22% take the opposing view.
  • 60% think that international students bring money into their local economy. Only 12% think they take money out.
  • 61% agree that Britain’s universities would have less funding to invest in top-quality facilities and teaching without the higher fees paid by international students. Only 7% disagree.
  • 75% believe that international students should be allowed to stay and work in Britain after graduating from British universities, using their skills for the benefit of our economy, for at least a period of time.
  • Only 22% think that international students should count as migrants. Most people did not understand why they would be counted towards the Government’s immigration targets.


Based on public opinion, the report recommends that the government should remove international students from any net migration target. This should coincide with the launch of an international student growth strategy, backed by investment, to promote British universities overseas, build new international partnerships and attract more international students to Britain.


The report also argues that the Government should make a renewed effort to communicate a consistent message that Britain welcomes international students, and should enhance opportunities for qualified international graduates to stay in the UK to work and contribute to the economy.


Read the full report by British Future, International students and the UK immigration debate.

In a cross-post from British Future marking the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service, Douglas Jefferson explains why he and his family remain grateful to the NHS.


In 1986 I was born 13 weeks premature by emergency caesarean. Normally parents get to hold their babies as they enter the outside world, but for my parents they could only stare at me in a box. Normally they can hear their child cry and breathe; my parents could hear only silence punctuated by the regular bleep of a heart monitor. Thanks to significant advances it is almost routine for children born as early as myself to survive. In fact, seven out of 10 do, but the odds were not as much in my favour back then.


Despite a bleak outlook numerous doctors and nurses worked hard, resulting in my condition stabilising within a few weeks. However, it was a while before I was out of the woods. I had developed a hernia and once again was in need of urgent treatment. The doctors at Pilgrim had to move me on to the care of Leela Kapila, a renowned specialist, who saved my life.


My family never forgot the actions of the staff at the Pilgrim, and particularly Kapila. And so, every year on my birthday, my parents and I became pilgrims ourselves, visiting the team at the hospital and presenting them with a birthday cake to say thank you.


I cannot begin to calculate the cost of all the doctors, nurses and medical equipment required to treat me in those early weeks, but I’m fairly sure I am still in arrears. So many of us owe our lives to the NHS and I certainly do, yet too often we can take it for granted. Indeed I often did myself as I complained about spending my birthday in a maternity ward rather than a theme park.


Douglas Jefferson outside the Pilgrim hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, on his 18th birthday

Douglas Jefferson outside the Pilgrim hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, on his 18th birthday

Regular newspaper headlines will highlight poor performing hospitals, while statistics will tell us about increased rates of infections or waiting times. However, my experience of the NHS is very much a positive, happy story, which is also the case for plenty of others.


As the NHS turns 65, I am once again reminded that it is an institution I am incredibly proud of, as well as thankful for. As a result it’s a good time to reflect on our own stories with the NHS and to thank all the people who keep it running every day, helping people of all ages and welcoming new generations into the NHS. While I no longer bake birthday cakes, I am still just as thankful to the NHS and all the people who contribute to it.



Read British Future’s special briefing marking the NHS’s 65th birthday.