Not so much an immigration cap as an immigration colander

Immigration was one of the issues on which Nick Clegg and David Cameron repeatedly clashed during the general election, so it is no surprise that it has continued to be a source of tension in the coalition. More surprisingly, the fault line in the coalition has not been a simple Lib Dem versus Conservative because many Conservatives are persuaded by the pleas from universities (that they need high fee paying foreign students else the funding higher education would be an even bigger political problem) and from business (that many firms in the UK cannot get the right skilled staff except through immigration).

As a result, the promised immigration cap is looking rather leaky with the limitations on what European agreements allow in the way of restrictions added to be an unwillingness to slash the number of foreign students and now, in yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, confirmation of a concession to business:

Thousands of employees of multinational companies will be exempt from the government’s immigration cap, Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated.

The government is still deciding on the level at which the cap will be set – and to whom it will apply.

But speaking at prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said: “Intra-company transfers shouldn’t be included in what we are looking at.” (BBC)

In other words, multinational companies will be able to redeploy staff to the UK without running into any immigration cap problems.

All in all, not so much a cap as a colander really.

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