SUBSTANTIAL powers over immigration should be devolved to the UK’s nations and regions, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers.
In an interim report, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration said the Government “must reassess its current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to immigration policy”, which would lead to a “more positive” debate about immigration.
The group pointed to the Canadian system, which had been adapted “to accommodate differences between the specific demographic, economic, and cultural profiles of that country’s constituent provinces and enable regionalised policy-setting”.
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This meant provincial governments could set their own requirements for people moving into the country , and visas could be issued specifically for certain areas or sectors.
According to the APPG report, addressing the “economic and cultural needs” of an area would “have a positive knock-on effect on the public debate on immigration”, which “could instil confidence among members of the public that the system works for their area, and give incentives for politicians to actively make the case for immigration in their area”.
APPG chairman Chuka Umunna discussed the regionalised system with the Government of Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil during a September visit to Canada.
“What we’re saying here is ‘let’s give the power to set need to local areas and regions and in that way we can detoxify this debate because it won’t be seen as Westminster imposing immigration on you and saying accept all these people’,” he said.
SNP MP Drew Hendry told The National current immigration policy was failing the country.
“The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of the UK Government has proven time and time again that it seriously fails the people of the Highlands – and Scotland as a whole,” he said. “We should never have the situation where people who have come into our communities and who have added value to our villages, towns and cities, who have become our friends and neighbours either deported or threatened with deportation.
“It is simply a disgrace that we so often find ourselves having to rally to support people the UK Government should actually be thanking for making our home, their home.
“It’s time the power to determine immigration policy was devolved to Scotland and that we reflect, within that, the outward-looking nature of the Scottish people.”
Hendry, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, is already fighting the case of Russell and Ellen Felber, who face being deported after the Home Office refused their application for leave to remain.
They have lived in Inverness for almost six years and have spent nearly £400,000 refurbishing the Torridon Guest House and turning it into an award-winning B&B.
Felber said yesterday that his lawyer was in the process of lodging an appeal against the Home Office ruling. By last night, 1,200 people had signed an online petition at change.org calling on Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill to reverse the deportation decision. It says: “The couple have complied with the con-ditions set at the time of their applic-ation and should be allowed to stay in Inverness, where they are valued, have built a life and a business, and continue to make a positive contribution to our community.”
The Home Office said it had no plans to introduce local visa arrangements. A spokesman said: “Our priority is to build an immigration system that works for everyone in the UK and delivers the control we need.”
Meanwhile, a study from Cambridge University has predicted that Brexit will trigger a major reduction in net migration.
Its Centre for Business Research said if immigration controls on EU nationals were imposed in mid-2019, there would be zero net migration between the UK and the continent as inflows and outflows would balance each other out. It said this would reduce overall annual net migration to Britain to 165,000 from 2020, about half the current figure.
However, this would still be above the Government target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands level per annum. The study brands the pre-EU referendum forecasts by the Treasury – dubbed part of “operation fear” by the Leave side – as having “little basis in reality”.