David Cameron will announce on Tuesday that UK ministers will be allowed to campaign for either side ahead of the EU referendum.
A number of cabinet ministers are thought to favor an out vote, with Mr Cameron expected to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, although he has said he rules nothing out if he does not get what he wants from his renegotiations.
If the Prime Minister had decided to insist on collective cabinet responsibility, he would have been forced to discharge ministers who disagreed with him.
The most important question of the EU referendum, for most of Britain, is immigration. When the moment comes for Britain to vote, the voters have to be well informed about what it would mean for the UK if the referendum would pass. If Cameron allows the ministers to speaks freely for one side, would that mean that the voters would be better informed? Both sides need to set out a real-world vision of what immigration would look like if they win the referendum.
British Future think tank says that the ‘Remain’ campaign needs to face up to the fact that there is no way to guarantee a significant reduction in EU migration while we stay in the European Union. It should instead set out a practical plan to deal with the immigration we have. That could include:
– Managing the impacts of high migration better by making a more direct link between the number of EU migrants arriving and the resources available to local areas where the pace of change has been fastest;
– Making integration of EU migrants work – with the government setting a civic norm that everyone in Britain for a year or more should speak English or be learning it.
– Fixing the broken net migration target – with a Comprehensive Immigration Review to examine the feasibility of policies to hit the target; and a review of the target itself if those policies prove unworkable or too unpopular with the public.
If the ‘Leave’ campaign is claiming it can offer lower immigration, it should show the public a real-world plan to deliver it. That would have to include answers to some key questions:
- Could Britain negotiate a free trade deal that does not include free movement?
- What would happen to EU citizens already in the UK? and
- What would Brexit mean for non-EU immigration – if a post-Brexit Britain did seek to attract skills and talent from countries outside Europe, what impact would that have on net migration levels?
Prime Minister, who is currently working on a renegotiation on immigration in Brussels, will have to soon present a deal that will show to the UK voters that the migrants contribute before they are able to access benefits. A deal like that would go well with the public, for the reason that it would allow the public to see that the migrants are here for the right reasons, to work and support their families, and not because of the benefits.
The think tank adds that Cameron should consider launching a comprehensive immigration evaluation so that he is not seen to be running away from the issue or proposing solutions seen to be false. This review would include a renewed focus on free compulsory English lessons for migrants in the UK for a year or more. It also proposes registration of EU migrants to make it easier for Whitehall to identify when local population surges are putting immediate pressure on public services.
Sunder Katwala, British Future’s director, said:“Those campaigning for a ‘remain’ vote won’t be trusted by undecided voters unless they acknowledge that reality and make a broader case for why being in this club makes free movement a price worth paying.”
It is difficult to show how a post-Brexit Britain could realistically keep its access to free trade with Europe without also keeping free movement.