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.