How would the political parties approach immigration?

Immigration has re-emerged as a key election battleground but the political parties are so far remaining tight-lipped on the detail of their proposals.

The Conservative pledges have prompted some confusion, however.

Here are some of the key questions on the topic from the election campaign so far:

Home Secretary Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel

– What are the Conservatives proposing?

It’s not entirely clear.

Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to “reduce immigration overall” but at the same time claimed the new system would be “more open and flexible to the highly skilled people, such as scientists and doctors”.

Meanwhile, Security Minister Brandon Lewis said the Tories would not set “arbitrary targets” for getting the numbers down.

This indicates the party is abandoning its long-standing failed commitment to getting net migration – the difference between the numbers of people entering and leaving the country – below 100,000 a year.

Repeatedly, Ms Patel has said freedom of movement will end after Brexit and any EU citizens wishing to live permanently in the UK will need permission to do so.

– What have they not explained?

Exactly how they will do this, apart from saying they would introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system.

Details of their plans have so far not been provided.

The biggest risk to our public services is Corbyn's plans for uncontrolled & unlimited immigration. The Conservatives will get Brexit done & introduce an Australian-style points system so that we reduce immigration overall, while being open & flexible to highly skilled people.

— Priti Patel (@patel4witham) November 14, 2019

– Would a points-based system make a difference?

We do not know.

The policies in Australia, Canada and New Zealand are considered fairer, more objective and by capping the number of certain visas are thought to be able to control numbers and allow a country to choose what it considers to be “the best” immigrants, based on skills which could help address staff shortages.

But critics fear it could be discriminatory by default and those with vital skills could be wasted if the jobs are not available.

Experts warn this is not a “plug-and-play” solution and would involve major changes to the UK’s immigration system, making it difficult if not impossible to replicate the apparent success in other countries.

It could take years to be implemented or become effective and may not resolve the situation.

Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham Literature Festival

– What is the Conservatives’ track record on living up to immigration pledges?


David Cameron vowed to cut net migration by 100,000 in his 2010 manifesto but this target has never been met.

Mr Lewis blamed this in part on there being a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats from 2010 to 2015.

But even in December last year, then Communities Secretary James Brokenshire was reported as insisting the Government remained committed to the target.

– What are the other parties proposing?

So far neither Labour or the Liberal Democrats have set out their plans on immigration, apart from Jeremy Corbyn committing to a “fair immigration process” which could include looking at whether freedom of movement will continue in the event of the UK leaving the EU.

He accused the Tories of fabricating figures – after it was claimed immigration levels would “surge” under a Labour government.

The Conservatives had claimed net migration under Labour “could increase to 840,000 per year”, with Ms Patel saying “immigration would surge” after the party carried out analysis of its opposition’s supposed proposals for open borders.