MPs launch nationwide probe into public opinions on immigration

Updated: 

An influential Commons committee is launching a nationwide inquiry into immigration. 

MPs will travel across the UK to hold public meetings in every region to hear views on the subject and how it should be approached in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, will launch the inquiry on Thursday.

She will say: "Immigration is one of the most important issues facing our country and will be central to the Brexit deal.

"Britain voted for change, especially on free movement, but there has been very little debate about what kind of reforms or immigration control that should now mean or how we get the best deal for the country.

"Successive governments have failed on immigration and public concern has grown.

"Yet too often the polarised nature of the debate makes it hard to get consensus over what should be done instead. If there is no consensus behind the most important parts of the Brexit deal, in the end it will unravel."

The "different kind of inquiry" will look "outward at the country not inward at the Government", Ms Cooper will pledge.

"Instead of just taking evidence in Westminster, we will be travelling round every region and nation, holding public meetings, bringing local people together for debates and discussions, citizens' juries, and online consultations," she will say.

"We are encouraging other organisations to run events and debates too - community groups, business organisations, faith groups, think-tanks, local councils, MPs, media organisations.

"We want to hear people's views both about immigration and about how they believe that common ground can be found to stop this issue dividing the country."

Immigration was seen as one of the central issues in lead-up to the EU referendum in June.

Figures released earlier this month showed the number of people coming to the UK has reached a record level, as the inflow of EU citizens hit a historic high.

Immigration from around the world was running at around 650,000 in the year to the end of June - the highest number recorded. The number coming to the country included a record 284,000 EU citizens.

Net migration - the overall difference between the numbers arriving and leaving the country - was also at a close to peak level of 335,000, well above the Government's target of less than 100,000.