Under a Labour government, Britain would accept migrants from the EU in return for the bloc taking back some of those who arrive here illegally via the Channel. Revealed today, this blueprint is a challenge to Rishi Sunak’s government, which is failing to get a grip on small boat crossings.
This is also the first major act of Sir Keir Starmer’s party in anticipation of next year’s general election to create the impression it is capable of forming a competent government. Few voters should be expected to break ranks from the Tory party (or, indeed, from abstention) as a result of this, with the plan’s focus on Brussels likely to deter a good number of Brexit supporters.
It comes ahead of Sir Keir’s planned meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, which has prompted further speculation that a Labour administration would seek to edge closer to the EU, something the Tories are also quite capable of doing.
While Labour sources cited in The Daily Telegraph said that any migration scheme would be “capped and tightly managed,” the intention here is clearly not to cut numbers. But this is also true of Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop small boats,” which, in any case, has been an abject failure.
The Tory government, which has had years to do something about this issue but has been successful only at humiliating itself, dismissed the plan as “open borders by the back door” because of its failure to deal with numbers. But on this front, like most others, there appears to be no difference between the two parties; migration rose rapidly when Labour was last in office and continued to do so once the keys to power were handed to the Tories.
When it comes to migration, the high numbers derive from legal entry, an issue which both Sir Keir and Mr. Sunak are bound to avoid.
Central to all this is that now an election is around the corner, the parties will act as though they are separated by key and unfixable differences, but any debate will be superficial.