Opinion: British “Progressive Alliance” failed from bad politics and bad faith

By Phil Butland

This is the latest in Migration Voter’s opinion series on strategic voting. Read our previous article on France here.

At the beginning of the British election campaign, the Green Party touted the idea of a “progressive alliance” against the Tories. To many people this seemed like a no-brainer. With the Tory manifesto showing the return of the “nasty party”, surely anything would be better than Theresa May coming back into power.

Here’s how a progressive alliance works. One of the peculiarities of the British election campaign is that an MP only needs to win more votes than any other candidate in his or her electoral district. With multiple candidates, most MPs do not even have the support of half the people who voted.

A progressive alliance would mean that in each district the local parties would decide which candidate would be most likely to beat the Tories. All other candidates would stand down, and the result would be a Tory wipe-out.

So why did the progressive alliance not happen? In this article, I will argue that it was a mixture of bad politics, bad faith, and the pessimistic (if, at the time, understandable) view that just because Labour was polling 20% behind the Tories they were incapable of winning on their own.

Bad Politics

Firstly, the bad politics. One of the conditions on which the Greens insisted was the inclusion of the Liberal Democrats in the progressive alliance. This posed a number of problems, not least that just seven years ago the LibDems fought an election campaign based on one major promise  – the withdrawal of tuition fees.

The Liberal Democrat election manifesto of 2010 declared “We will scrap unfair university tuition fees so everyone has the chance to get a degree, regardless of their parents’ income” around the time of the National Union of Students conference in April of that year. LibDem leader Nick Clegg issued a youtube video titled “Say goodbye to broken promises”. The first frame was a piece of paper on which was written “No student tuition fees – Labour”.

libdem vid

On 28 April Clegg claimed tuition fees would double under a Conservative or Labour government: “We think it’s unfair when you graduate and you haven’t even taken your first step in the world of adult work to be saddled with £25,000 worth of debt”. Every Lib Dem candidate who was subsequently elected signed a “Vote for Students” pledge, promising to vote against any rise in tuition fees in the next parliament.

The election resulted in a hung parliament and the LibDems could have joined a coalition government led by Labour or by the Tories. They chose the Tories – who promptly tripled tuition fees. On 9 December 2010, in the Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations Act, MPs approved raising the cap on tuition fees by a 323 to 302 vote. 28 LibDem MPs voted for the bill and only 21 voted against. Indeed one of the arguments that claim current LibDem Leader Tim Fallon is somehow progressive is that he was one of the minority of MPs who voted for party policy.

The LibDems propped up the Conservative government for its full term, and were punished at the subsequent election where they lost nearly all their MPs. In 2010, boosted by a strong campaign in student constituencies, 57 LibDem MPs were voted into parliament. In the 2015 election, only eight remained.

But surely they’ll have learned from their mistakes? Apparently not. Under new leader Tim Farron, an evangelical Christian who has received due flak for his views on gay marriage, the LibDems have repeatedly refused to rule out entering another coalition with the Tories. Under these circumstances, they had no need for a progressive alliance – and a progressive alliance had no need for them.

Despite putting on a progressive front, Farron has called abortion “wrong at any time”. Former Campaigns manager to the gay LibDem MP Simon Hughes, Mark Gettleson has said:

“Tim Farron now presents himself as a changed man. He says he now regrets abstaining on equal marriage, despite not distancing himself from his amendments. He’s changed his mind too on his opposition to the Equality Act’s ban on discrimination in the provision of goods and services … But it is not enough to repent of the past when it becomes convenient to do so.”

When Corbyn won the Labour leadership, Farron appealed to the Labour MPs working against Corbyn (and the majority of their party) and Conservatives, telling The Guardian “Over the past few days I have received a number of messages and calls from friends within the Labour party distressed by the direction that their party is taking. To the right, I have talked with a new Conservative MP taken aback by the attitudes that they have encountered within their own party.”

His appeal to centrists in both parties continued in April 2017, when he refused to rule out forming another coalition with the Tories. As with former LibDem leader Nick Clegg, who opposed student fees out of office then helped push them through, we must judge Farron not on what he says but what he has done and what he’s likely to do in the future.

That’s a maybe, but surely Labour could make some deal with the Greens? After all, during the dark years of Tony Blair, the Greens remained the conscience of the nation, with many people – including myself – voting for them as a progressive alternative to Blair’s politics of war and austerity.

Now I could certainly see a good case for the Greens and Labour making a voting alliance, especially in the (many) constituencies held by Labour MPs who have consistently campaigned against Corbyn. Since the general election in 2015, Labour has trebled its membership to over 500.000 people. Although most people have joined because of Corbyn’s leadership, a majority of MPs, and their house journal, the supposedly progressive newspaper The Guardian have tried to undermine him every step of the way.

Following a continuous barrage of Guardian articles declaring Corbyn to be “unelectable” 172 Labour MPs submitted a no-confidence vote in Corbyn with just 40 supporting him. 20 shadow cabinet ministers and around 30 other junior ministers resigned, coordinating their resignations at hourly intervals to sustain media pressure on Corbyn. Nonetheless, in this second leadership election, Corbyn won an increased majority with over 60% of the vote, including a vast majority of individual party members.

Despite this, in the current election campaign, many candidates have openly snubbed the Labour Leadership. Phil Wilson, Tony Blair’s successor as Labour MP for Sedgefield proudly told Facebook that “I am no supporter of Jeremy Corbyn” and “it is my name on the ballot paper here, not Corbyn”. In Newcastle-under-Lyme, Paul Farrelly said that voters would “laugh me off the streets” if he put Corbyn’s policies on his leaflets (

As Corbyn has gained ground on the Tories, both The Guardian and the rebel MPs have largely fallen into line. The Guardian’s sister paper The Observer even claimed that Corbyn “should be commended for the dignified way in which he has dealt with an immensely hostile media onslaught from the rightwing tabloids”, even though some of the greatest hostility came from its own stable. Nevertheless, it is clear that even if Corbyn wins the election, he cannot be sure of the support of the majority of his parliamentary party, and will need the backing of other progressives both inside and outside parliament.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Green’s suggestion of a progressive alliance this time round was tainted by bad faith from the start.

Bad Faith

It wasn’t just the insistence that the LibDems be involved. As soon as Labour wavered on the idea of a progressive alliance, the Greens – and their only MP, the genuinely progressive Caroline Lucas – spent much more time attacking Labour than they did the Tories. A particular low point was their election broadcast of 12 May. This broadcast lambasted Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May equally, while saying that the Greens were the only true anti-establishment party.

And yet what has characterized this election campaign had been Corbyn’s ability to tap into an anti-establishment feeling shared by millions who have suffered under the Tories. Addressing rallies of thousands of people and with the support of actors like Maxine Peake and film directors like Ken Loach, Corbyn has turned the election into a two-horse race. A couple of weeks ago, the Tories led by 20% in the polls. At the time of writing, polls are predicting a hung parliament. A yougov survey for the Sunday Times put support for the Conservatives on 42% and Labour on 38% . On top of this, the Scottish and Welsh nationalists are unlikely to support the Tories, nor are the Greens or Sinn Féin who are likely to take their seats in Westminster for the first time.  And there’s still over a week to go.

Voting intention 1-2 Jun]-01

Corbyn’s success comes from a series of positive demands – for a minimum wage, a decent health service and for humane treatment of refugees , that comes from standing for something. Horse trading with the Greens and particularly the Liberal Democrats would have blunted this message. A progressive alliance is based on preventing the worst from happening and is in its very nature negative and reactive.

The Greens may have called upon Corbyn to join them in stopping the Tories, yet they only have one MP, and their only real chances of getting any more lies in constituencies with Labour MPs. Standing down in other areas would have helped them concentrate their resources – and to save a lot of money they will lose from lost deposits.

Does this mean that a progressive alliance is always a bad idea or that British progressive voters should vote Labour everywhere? I do believe that this time round, all British voters should vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but in two areas there is a case to be made that the Corbyn candidate is not necessarily the Labour candidate.

The first area is Scotland. After decades of Labour misrule and a refusal to address the national question, Labour was punished in Scotland at the last general election, where the SNP ran a left social democratic campaign and won all but 3 of the 59 seats available. One of the few pleasures of the last parliamentary sessions has been watching the 22-year old SNP MP Mhairi Black regularly excoriating the Tories for their soulless policies (see, for example, here, here, here and here).

The Corbyn effect is only just starting to take hold in parts of Scotland, and in many cases, progressive voters will be torn between choosing between the SNP and Labour. Scotland would actually be one place where a progressive alliance could be effective, yet the SNP have no interest in helping Labour try to win back the support that they have squandered in Scotland.

The other constituency where progressives should consider voting against Labour is Bradford West,  where I lived for many years and would be voting if I still had the right to vote in the UK.  Salma Yaqoob is a former leader of RESPECT, the party set up by George Galloway after Tony Blair launched the war on Iraq. In 2017, Salma is standing against Naz Shah, a Labour MP who has gleefully joined the plots against Jeremy Corbyn. There is no question that Salma is the candidate with the better politics and the more personal integrity.

There are still two possible reasons not to vote for Salma. The first would be if her candidacy would split the progressive vote and let the Tories in. This seems to be highly unlikely – and there is some talk of the possibility of Salma actually winning.

The second reason to doubt is that this election – more than most others – will be used to judge the personal and political qualities of the two main leaders – Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. There are many Labour right wingers who will jump on any losses of Labour under Corbyn to remove him and to return the party to its old neo-liberal leadership.

And yet it seems to me – albeit from 1000 kilometres away – that even if Corbyn wins the election (something few people were even considering even a week ago) he will be opposed by most of his own MPs and the presence of someone like Salma in parliament would be of considerable use to him – not to mention the platform it would offer her to speak out for genuine progressive politics.

Lessons for Germany?

Finally, I would like to sum up by asking what this all means for the coming German elections and for the LINKE party, of which I am a member. Many party members are excited by the possibility of die LINKE entering government, as a junior partner to the SPD and Greens. I am more sceptical – not least because taking part in a government following the same austerity programme as today’s SPD would open the way to the mixture of neo-liberals and out-and-out fascists in the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) being able to pose as being the “real” anti-establishment party.

But even if die LINKE wants to join a coalition government, Jeremy Corbyn has proved how it is possible to gain electoral support by offering clear, progressive politics. Which is why die LINKE campaign must be centered on supporting the weakest – including migrants and refugees – and fighting together for a better society.

If we limit our offer to saying “at least we’re not as bad as the other lot”, we shouldn’t be surprised if we fail to inspire.


Phil Butland is the speaker of die LINKE Berlin Internationals (https://theleftberlin.wordpress.com/, lag.internationals@die-linke-berlin.de)


Sources and Further Reading
Green Party Urges Electoral Alliance, The Guardian, June 2016
Nasty Party“, Wikipedia
 Liberal Democrat Election Manifesto 2010
Liberal Democrats: Say Goodbye to Broken Promises. Youtube, April 2010
Tuition Fees and the Lib Dems, Channel 4, Oct. 2010
Fact Check: Lib Dem Rebellion on Cards, Channel 4, Oct 10
Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations Act, UK Parliament, 2010
Mark Gettleson: Why Tim Farron’s Record on Gay Marriage MattersHuffington Post, July 2016
Tim Farron: Corbyn win ‘potentially changes everything’ for Lib Dems, The Guardian, Sept. 2015
Tim Farron: Lib Dem leader refuses to rule out coalition with the Conservatives (Video), The Independent, April 2017
Labour shadow cabinet and ministers resignations – the letters in full. The Telegraph, June 2016
Green Party – Party Election Broadcast: 2017 General Election, Youtube, May 2017
SNP MP Mhairi Black “excoriating the Tories” in Parliament (videos): July 2015, Feb. 2016, Dec. 2016, July 2016, Youtube.
Header Image via Andy Miah on Flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2qQ7Q1x
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UK Parties Clash Over International Students

With the UK General election in less than two weeks, the gap is narrowing between the two largest parties, the Conservatives led by current prime minister Theresa May and the Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn. As we concluded in our analysis of the two parties’ manifestos, their massively different views indicate that this will be a uniquely impactful election for Britain’s immigration system. Adding to the mix three parties that are staunchly opposed to ending free movement, which will almost certainly be part and parcel of Brexit, and you have a volatile set of possibilities for people living in the UK from EU countries as well. One of the groups at the center of the controversy over migration is international students, who stand to be targeted by big changes if the Conservative party is victorious. MV takes a deep dive to understand what’s happening.

The Issue

Students from all over the world vie for the chance to study in the UK, home to some of the world’s top universities. In 2015-2016, over 2 million students studied in undergraduate or post-graduate programs in the UK, and over 231,000 were students from other countries- including some 59,100 from the EU, according to HESA, an agency providing official statistics on the subject of higher education in the UK.

Ivy Bar43 South St. North Carolina (1)

As can be seen, international students make up circa 10% of total higher education students in the UK (this includes both graduate level and post-graduate level students.)

However, this total covers students total in the UK, so it is not an accurate reflection of yearly immigration by people seeking to study in the country. That number, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) was 136,000 for 2016 – down 36,000 from the prior year.

The numbers of both students generally and incoming students from abroad have remained relatively stable over the last years, but since at least 2010 international students have come under political focus by politicians promising to reduce migration levels. The debate was rekindled this year as British Parliament tackled widespread reforms to British higher education through the Higher Education and Research Act of 2017, partially in response to Brexit.

Brexit, International Students, and the Higher Education and Research Act

Following the referendum result, there was significant concern awakened about what the British exit from the EU would mean for the higher education system. With multiple links with Europe at stake, through students, research grants, joint programs and more, some feared Brexit would make Britain a less desirable destination for students, or leave current international students with huge uncertainty over their status and ability to remain in the UK. British students could also be at risk of losing university spots in the EU, or being unable to access the popular Erasmus program. The multi-partisan House of Commons Committee on Education was tasked with evaluating the situation and making recommendations for the government’s course on higher eduction after Brexit. The resulting report covers a wide range of topics, but is fairly clear in its endorsement for a university sector as open as possible to international students from the EU and beyond.

intl students1

Around the same time, Parliament mulled the Higher Education and Research Act, a bill meant to tackle widespread challenges to the system and provide stability and quality oversight for the univeristy and research sector. During debate over the bill at the House of Commons, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Joseph Johnson (who is, notably, a Conservative party member) emphasized that the bill would not change course on the topic:

I reiterate that the Government value and welcome international students who come to study in the UK. We recognise that they enhance our educational institutions, both financially and culturally, enrich the experience of domestic students, and become important ambassadors for the UK in later life. It is for those reasons that we have no plan to limit the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the United Kingdom. I need to be very clear that that commitment applies to all institutions. We have no intention of limiting any institution’s ability to recruit genuine international students. We have no plans to cap the number of genuine students who can come to the UK to study, or to limit an institution’s ability to recruit genuine international students based on its TEF rating or on any other basis.

The bill was passed by royal assent in late April with no limits to international students or discussion of including those students in the migration targets. Now, the Conservative manifesto (which we explored in more detail here) has reopened the debate by proposing to include international students in their net migration target after all.

Tories Stand Alone

One of the key promises the Conservative Party makes in its manifesto is to cap migration numbers, down from current levels (they cite circa 270,000 annually) to under 100,000 entrants per year. As part of this reduction, they are the only party to explicitly promise to include international students in their count of “migrants” (page 54).

We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards. We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded. Overseas students will remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration.

No matter how you reckon this, it would mean a decrease in visas issued for international students. Whether taking the overall figure or the number of visas issued yearly, it alone is already higher than 100,000: meaning even if they made no decreases to family reunification or work migration, there would be decreases here. Who will make up for these missing places? The Conservatives offer a clue in their section on “Prosperous Towns and Cities Across Britain”:

… we want to see universities make their full contribution to their local community and economy, sponsoring local schools and being creative about how they can open up opportunities for local people, especially those from ordinary working backgrounds.

In addition to reducing student places and toughening requirements for student visas, the Conservatives also commit to increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge for international students to  £450 “to cover their use of the NHS.” Studying the manifesto, we haven’t found anything to suggest these changes will not also apply to people from the EU who wish to study in the UK. Indeed, given their stance that migration from the EU must be controlled and reduced, it is logical to conclude that students from the Eurozone are embraced in these policies as well.

It’s interesting that the Conservatives have taken this stance on international students. It goes against the recommendations of the Committee on Education, whose six Conservative party members make up a majority of the 11-member strong committee.

It also contradicts the stance of Conservative Minister Joseph Johnson who we quoted above saying that government has no intention of reducing students or restricting freedom of movement.

It also sets them apart from every other party, including the strongly anti-immigrant UKIP.

Where the other parties stand

In their election manifesto, UKIP pointedly criticizes the “failure” of the Tories on immigration, saying they are “the only party with the political will and the plan to cut immigration.” In their plan, they envision an Australian-style points system with visas for students included, and immigration halved over a five year period to reach a goal of zero net immigration. Students, they say, will be welcomed, but abuse won’t be tolerated. Its unclear what this concretely means for student visa numbers, but UKIP does not seem to spell out cuts to the sector explicitly.

For the other top parties, there is relative unanimity on the subject.

Labour “welcomes international students who benefit and strengthen our education sector, generating more than £25 billion for the British economy and significantly boosting regional jobs and local businesses. They are not permanent residents and we will not include them in immigration numbers, but we will crack down on fake colleges.

Liberal Democrats will “recognising their largely temporary status, remove students from the official migration statistics.”

Greens will “protect freedom of movement, press for remaining within the single market, and safeguard vital rights for people and the environment.”

SNP: “will continue to make the case for the reintroduction of a Post-Study Work Visa scheme for Scotland, to enable international students who come here to study to then stay and contribute to our society and economy after they graduate.”

The public would appear to back a welcoming stance towards international students. In a poll published in April of this year by ComRes for Universities UK, a majority (64%) of British adults consider international students a benefit to the economy, and only 26% consider international students “migrants” when it comes to government immigration policy. (Full study can be downloaded here.) Back in 2014, a poll on the same topic found that 66% of  people who vote Conservative are opposed to reducing student numbers.

So why are Tories fixed on reducing International Students?

It is somewhat confusing as to why the Conservative party manifesto takes such a strong tack against international students, when public opinion, members of their own party, and universities themselves take the opposite position.

It is possible that the party is not so much concerned about students at university as they are about the ties that form during this period. People who study abroad form relationships and meet partners, gain employment opportunities or make connections with communities that may entice them to stay indefinitely rather than just for the period of their study. In that way, students from other countries always have the potential to become indelibly tied to their university and the country it is in, even if only a small percentage actually stays.

In this way it seems that the Conservatives are embracing a view of migration that makes little distinction between lawful and unlawful, skilled and unskilled. If even star students are considered a risk that must be controlled and reduced, it sends a message about other types of immigration that people consider even less desirable. It signals that the Conservatives have become the party that is tough on immigrants, with no exceptions.


Sources and Further Reading
MV Coverage of the British General Election
Statistics on Students and Graduates, HESA
Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, Office for National Statistics, May 2017
Brexit: What will it mean for universities, students, and academics? Dame Julia Goodfellow, The Telegraph, July 2016
Higher Education and Research Act of 2017, UK Parliament
Exiting the EU: Challenges and Opportunities for Higher Education, House of Commons Education Committee, April 2017
Debate in House of Commons, April 2017
Manifestos: Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP
Public Perceptions of International Students Survey, ComRes, April 2017
International Students and the UK Migration Debate, Universities UK, 2014
Header Image via Chris Robinson on Flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2rnz9kK

Dominated by Brexit? A closer look at Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP and SNP manifestos on migration

In our previous article, we examined the Labour party and Conservative party manifestos for the quickly approaching UK General Election. Today we’ll take a closer look at the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, UK Independence Party (UKIP), and Scottish National Party (SNP), who altogether make up a share of about 16%, together with others, according to recent polling by IPSOS Mori.

vi-political-monitor-may-2017

Liberal Democrats- Supporting Immigration while Opposing Brexit

In their manifesto, the Liberal Democrat party is positioning itself as true opposition to both Labour and Conservatives, highlighting their steadfast opposition to Brexit.

On the biggest question facing all of us, Brexit, which has such huge implications for our young people and our future, Corbyn ordered his MPs to stand down against Theresa May’s government. Where the Liberal Democrats are fighting every step of the way, Labour is holding Theresa May’s hand as she jumps off the cliff edge of a hard Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats say they are offering up a strong opposition that counters the pro-Brexit or Brexit acceptance of the two largest parties. So what would this opposition look like for immigration?

Brexit: In policies that highlight their opposition to Brexit, Liberal Democrats propose protections for citizens of EU countries and British people living in EU countries. They would guarantee the rights of people from the EU currently living in the UK and streamline these people’s ability to register, receive permanent residence and/or apply for citizenship. They oppose abandoning the principle of free movement in either direction, and want British citizens to retain benefits of travel and international study in programs like Erasmus. They would ensure respect for international students and guarantee the rights of people from abroad working for the NHS or Social Care (but they are vague as to how.) In short, the Liberal Democratic approach is to try to ensure that individuals currently in Britain as migrants don’t lose their jobs or ability to stay as a result of Brexit.

Immigration: “Immigration is essential to our economy” according to Liberal Democrats, and their approach to newcomers (not those already present in the UK) is based for the most part on economic impact. They would consult with parliament in a yearly debate to determine which areas of the market need skilled people from other countries, and they would continue to allow visas for high-skilled job-seekers as well as family reunification visas. International students would not be counted in immigration statistics, and students studying STEM areas would be able to stay and additional period if they find employment within 6 months. Finally, a “Migration Impact Fund” would be available to communities “adjust” to pressures associated with migration.

libdems

Asylum: On asylum, Liberal Democrats differ greatly from the other parties. They would end indefinite detention by applying a 28-day limit to the time period where people seeking asylum can be detained, and attempt to offer safe routes to the UK by, for example, reforming family reunification rules to make it easier for people to join their families without risking dangerous routes. Additionally, they would expand acceptance of people fleeing Syria to 50,000 in the next five years under Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and accept 3,000 children who are unaccompanied, offering them leave to remain indefinitely in Britain.

Green Party – Reject Brexit

Like the Lib Dems, the Green party is openly opposed to Brexit and uses terms to like “big”, “bold” and “brave” to describe their vision for the future. They want citizens to be able to vote for an option to remain in the EU, and place environmental concerns like climate change front and center. Immigration is not a focal point of their comparatively brief manifesto, but there are several points which show them generally in favor of immigration.

Brexit: The Green party wants an option for Britons to reject the Brexit deal and remain in the EU after all, through a referendum to be held following negotiations. Failing that, they want to retain freedom of movement from both directions and remain in the common market. They call to “immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK and urgently seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens in the EU.” They would also seek to guarantee rights for British citizens to work and study in the EU, including taking part in the Erasmus program.

Immigration and Asylum: The Green Party guarantee on this topic is short and vague: “A humane immigration and asylum system that recognises and takes responsibility for Britain’s ongoing role in causing the flow of migrants worldwide.”

UK Independence Party (UKIP) – Net Immigration at Zero

Britain’s UKIP party sees itself as radical, agenda-setting outsiders, as party leader Paul Nutall states in the party’s manifesto.

When we first said that Britain could not only survive but prosper outside the European Union, the political class laughed at us. When we spoke of the need for a points based system for migrants we were derided as racists and xenophobes by the same people. … Be it our stance on balanced migration, constitutional reform or integration, I predict we are leading where the other parties will eventually follow.

But a risk of setting the course is that bigger parties hijack and co-opt your ideas. With Britain’s largest party, the Conservatives, endorsing Brexit and taking a hard-line stance to reduce immigration, can UKIP offer something new?

Brexit: UKIP stands for the hardest of hard Brexits, rejecting Article 50 as a trap by Brussels, and setting out a list of “tests” that can be used to evaluate whether the extraction from the EU has been thorough enough. One of these is the rejection of all forms of free movement.

UKIP

Nevertheless, in their section “Defending our National Health Service”, UKIP promises to guarantee the right to remain for health care workers from EU countries, regardless of what happens to British citizens in EU countries.

Immigration and Asylum: UKIP seeks to differentiate themselves from both the Labour and Conservative parties on their immigration plan, promising to ease public fears while still welcoming “the best and brightest from around the word” to Britain.

UKIP would reduce net migration to zero over five years (meaning that the number of people coming and leaving would be balanced, which would require dramatic reductions to incomers or larger numbers of people leaving.) They would achieve this by emulating the Australian immigration system, which awards points to people wishing to immigrate based on various pre-selected indicators and requires a certain number of points to obtain a visa. (You can read an example of points calculations here.) Unlike Australia’s system, however, UKIP would add an additional integration requirement to “test the social attitudes of migration applicants to foster community cohesion and protect core British values.” What this would entail is uncertain, although they mention attitudes towards women and gay people as possible indicators.

The party would not seek changes to Student visas or earnings thresholds for family reunifications visas, and pledges to continue to respect the 1951 Refugee Convention. However, newcomers to Britain would only gain access to public services and the NHS after paying taxes into the system for five consecutive years. UKIP would also ban immigration of people with “low skills” for five years after Britain leaves the EU.

Scottish National Party- Passionately “in”

The Scottish National Party did not spend significant time discussing immigration in their 2016 platform, which is the latest one available and reads a little like a “greatest hits” review of the party’s success as Scotland’s largest party (and third largest party overall in the UK). The main policy proposals by the SNP that would impact immigration is their continuing pledge to fight against Brexit, and at the same time, to fight for Scottish independence.  On their website, their immigration stance is similarly sparse, proposing “a fair, robust and secure immigration system that meets Scotland’s social and economic needs.”

As third biggest party in British parliament, the SNP’s opposition to Brexit, and very real threat to secede from the UK, has the potential to wield substantial opposition to a “hard Brexit.” This in turn could impact the plight of EU migrants and Britain’s adherence to EU obligations regarding migration and asylum. But this is an indirect effect of the SNP’s Brexit stance, and could be said as well for the Lib Dems and Greens.

The SNP declares that Scotland will actively help to tackle the refugee crises, and will continue to resettle people seeking asylum in Scotland. Apart from that, the party offers “crises grants” for families seeking refuge in Scotland, and wants to fight for access to tuition-free education for newcomers, as Scottish citizens are entitled to. Additionally, on their website, they suggest extending work visas to individuals who study in the UK.

Sources and Further Reading

Comparing the Conservative and Labour Manifestos on Migration, MV
May 2017 Political Monitor, IPSOS MORI
Change Britain’s Future- The Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2017
The Green Party for a Caring and Confident Britain 
Britain Together- UKIP Manifesto 2017
SNP 2016
What is the SNP’s policy on immigration? SNP Website
Image via UK Parliament on Flickr,  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).