Brexit is clearly failing – it’s time to stop the lies about immigration

Can we stop lying about immigration? The Tory message has always been: “We’re trying to reduce immigration to give you a better life, but the EU has forced uncontrolled immigration on us and clogged our resources.” But we’re out of the EU now, so this one is Excuse obsolete. And if the rampant post-Brexit labor shortage hasn’t already disproved that message for you, this week’s OBR assessment will.

For the record, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is the government’s own body of experts, and Jeremy Hunt has used its analysis several times to underpin his budget plans. So you can either support this government or ignore the OBR’s assessment. You can’t do both, because there’s no point in letting yourself be guided by a government if you think its compass is broken.

According to OBR, net immigration rises to about 240,000 a year, which is 40,000 more than forecast in November and up from the 129,000 forecast in its forecast a year ago. They say immigration is playing a key role in restoring the economy by addressing labor shortages. But they also say that post-Brexit immigration is not as helpful to our economy as it was before Brexit. For example, recently “work visas accounted for only 20 percent of all visas issued.” They even bluntly said it is “likely that the participation rate of migrants will be lower under the post-Brexit regime than in the past”.

This would suggest that “taking back immigration control” means not just more immigration, but more immigration that is helping our economy less than it used to.”

One reason is that “unrestricted EU immigration” has always been a lie. According to EU rules, you could only move here if you were either working or had your own health insurance and had enough money not to burden the welfare state. So Brexit was sold to fix a problem that never existed. And even Nigel Farage admitted this lie in 2017.

And now our economy is crying out for more workers. Last month, the National Farmers Union called for looser rules for foreign workers. Yesterday the Food and Drink Association did the same. Even the fishing industry, one of the key constituencies voting for Brexit, is clamoring for more workers, with Salmon Scotland specifically blaming Brexit. Not to mention the recent confirmation that Brexit has hurt the NHS, partly due to restrictions on overseas medical professionals.

When I first met Nigel Farage In 2018 he reiterated Brexit propaganda: “Would you accept that a population that has grown well beyond anything we have seen in this country before is putting massive pressure on the NHS?” I replied: “EU citizens are making 5 percent of our population but 10 percent of our doctors, so EU immigration is not a threat to the country, it is literally keeping it alive.”

But the lie is even worse. Because part of the pro-Brexit argument was that if you stopped all Polish plumbers and Romanian roofers from coming here, there would be more jobs for British builders and higher wages. But the government has just lowered the minimum wage threshold for foreign construction workers by more than £5,000.

And what do you think happens when all the vacancies are filled and workers still want better pay, so unionize to demand it? Do you think the Tories will side with the unions? Can you really imagine Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss standing arm in arm on the picket line? Or would they rather vote for more legislation to limit strike action, as Rishi Sunak has done 10 times out of 10?

That was the real lie of Brexit – that immigration was the reason people weren’t getting paid properly. And now we know that immigration will continue to increase.

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