Nick Clegg reminder to drawbridge-up Tories on immigration: “We are an open economy”

CleggIt’s good to have the old Nick Clegg back today. You know the one I mean: the liberal leader willing to stick up for the free movement of people and take on the anti-immigration populists.

Occasionally that Nick goes missing in action, such as when he advocated security bonds for immigrants from ‘high-risk’ countries entering the UK or when he enthusiastically joined the general hysteria around so-called ‘benefit tourism’.

But today he was back, hitting out at proposals allegedly leaked by the Home Office to impose a cap on the number of EU citizens who can come to work in the UK:

Speaking at his monthly press conference, Clegg said he understood the fears of many people that large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians may seek to claim benefits when travel restrictions are lifted on 1 January.

But the deputy prime minister was highly critical after the Sunday Times reported that May was seeking to impose a cap on the number of EU citizens working in Britain. May’s office is understood to have leaked the findings of the Home Office section of the government’s EU balance of competences review to the newspaper.

Clegg said: “My advice to the Home Office is to spend less time leaking policies that are illegal and undeliverable and spend more time delivering on the policies that we have agreed as a coalition government, notably the reinstatement of exit checks. I remain very frustrated that the Home Office has still not delivered something which I personally insisted should be in the coalition agreement, which is a reinstatement of the checks which allow us to know not only who is coming into this country but who is leaving as well.

“Beyond that I would just state the obvious. If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Finnish engineers or Dutch accountants they can’t come to work it would be a disaster for our economy. We are an open economy. The City of London would grind to a halt overnight. It would be very unwelcome to the two million Brits who work abroad.”

Can we have more of this Nick Clegg, please?

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Paul Pettinger 16th Dec '13 - 6:32pm

    Like you I used to assume that former Lib Dem MEPs would cherish the free movement of people, but Nick Clegg has long been hostile to immigrants – when home affairs spokesperson in 2007 he called for Romanians and Bulgarians to *not* be granted free access to the UK labour market. When has Nick Clegg been good on immigration – are you thinking of the illegal immigrant amnesty?

  • Today he’s back, yes. But why? The clock’s ticking, the 2015 election is getting nearer.

    Trying to differentiate [or rather pretend to be different from] the Tories will be Clegg’s game for the next 18 months.

    Will the left leaning voters Clegg told to go away the other year care what he has to say ?

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Dec '13 - 6:52pm

    Should the headline read, ‘drawbridge up?’

    ‘Beyond that I would just state the obvious. If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Finnish engineers or Dutch accountants they can’t come to work it would be a disaster for our economy.’

    Well, would it? Are we short of home-grown lawyers, engineers and accountants? Short of lawyers, engineers and accountants and the like willing to work for low rates perhaps.

    Benefit tourism is likely not the problem it is made out to be, however until someone talks about questions of wage arbitrage I don’t see this question as having being given full thought. Immigration has to go beyond corporate interest.

  • Why exit checks? The only point of that idea is to appease the people who think that the government should always know who’s here. I don’t see why I should be checked when I leave my own country.

    The Lib Dems should be pressing for us to join Schengen. We’d get a huge boost to tourism and a massive saving in ‘border’ bureaucracy and delay.

  • “It’s good to have the old Nick Clegg back today. You know the one I mean”

    When even the loyalists accept that the leadership is two-faced, we’ve got problems!

  • andrew purches 17th Dec '13 - 12:00pm

    For some time now,I have been at a loss to understand why those “migrants” from within the EEC arriving on our shores are not subject to a system whereby any payments paid out to them after arrival are recoverable from the home states of these immigrants. This applies to the health systems of all member states, whereby travellers,and even residents have a NHS entitlement card that,more or less,covers the holder for any medical treatment within another member state’s borders. This can be extended I am sure to cover all benefit entitlements, at least until the recipients are fully incorporated into the PAYE and National Insurance system. This would stopp all the twaddle about benefit tourism and the like.

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