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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.