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| Caron Pope

Brexit: Interesting Times Ahead

Brexit: Interesting Times Ahead

Last week I had the pleasure of opening and closing Fragomen UK's latest immigration seminar. Rather than a technical update, this was a panel discussion on Brexit and how it would affect immigration policy...very timely the day before the official campaign started. We had almost 100 attendees from business, business groups, government officials and diplomats. Clearly a sign that the debate is hotting up!

Our panel of speakers were:

  • Baron David Blunkett, former Labour Home Secretary

  • Peter Lilly MP, former Secretary of State for Trade, amongst other roles in successive Conservative Governments

  • Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, Scottish National Party spokesperson on Trade

  • Gerwyn Davies, Labour Market Advisor for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

 

Last of all we had the excellent Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, present his work on How (not) to talk about immigration and chair our panel.

Sunder's work on Europe was fascinating. British Future have looked at how both sides of the EU referendum debate should, or rather should not, present their case.

The full British Future report is worth a look and two points stood out for me. Firstly those looking to leave the EU should think carefully before talking about immigration. It turns people off and is not everyone's first concern.

Those who want to remain also need to think carefully about how they present their arguments. A tendency to use technical, complicated language doesn't work.

The panel had a robust and fascinating debate about immigration. We covered everything from skills shortages and wage depression to the migrant crisis and migrant camps in Calais.

I can't say there was a great deal of consensus, but the debate was all the richer for it. Feedback was that attendees could have listened for twice the time (sadly not feedback we have on our regular technical updates, which do not stir up similar passion).  

That said, there was agreement from all panellists on one important point.

It isn't good enough that Europeans already here don't know what a Brexit would mean for them. All the panelists agreed that it would be wrong (and legally difficult) to make them leave the UK. And, crucially, they agreed that both sides of the debate should make it clear that they would not be.

Let’s see what the next few weeks bring ...interesting times ahead.

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