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Political parties set out stance on immigration

View profile for James Champness

In the run-up to next month’s general election, the major political parties have set out their plans for immigration to the UK if they receive a mandate to govern from the ballot box.

The Conservative manifesto contains most detail, and has therefore attracted most attention in the press with headline-grabbing plans to double the annual skills surcharge payable by skilled workers from outside the EEA or Switzerland from £1,000 to £2,000 by 2022. The surcharge has only been in existence since April 2017, and the proposed increase has been criticised by the CBI as a “blunt instrument” for tackling immigration when employers are still seeking to attract appropriately-qualified skilled workers. The manifesto also includes proposals to treble the annual health surcharge from £200 to £600. The Conservative party have also pledged to tighten rules for international students who wish to remain in the UK after studying, and to reserve a certain number of visas for sectors regarded strategically important for the economy as a whole, such as digital technology.

The Liberal Democrats have taken a measured view, recognising that large-scale immigration has placed strains on some government services, but also acknowledge the importance of attracting skilled workers and talented students. Proposals include a reinstatement of post-study work visas for STEM graduates, and increased funding for English language training for migrants.

The Labour Party’s manifesto is more in favour of immigration than the other mainstream parties, and attacks the Conservative preoccupation with setting immigration targets. The proposals are general in tone, but focus on the requirement to operate a fairer immigration service at the same time as increasing funding for education and training within the UK to ensure the skills of the resident labour force match the demands of businesses.  

All parties also acknowledge that immigration planning after the General Election will have a significant focus on what structures will be put in place for EEA and Swiss nationals in the period after Brexit.