“Absurd, amateurish and arbitrary”: Cable slams May over immigration

Vince Cable has accused Theresa May of being obsessed by an “arbitrary” target to cut immigration, warning that her “posturing” has fuelled a dangerous and misleading impression that the issue is “out of control”.

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats attacked the Government’s goal of reducing net immigration below 100,000 a year as “amateurish,” “absurd” and having “malign consequences” including economic and social damage. [The Independent]

The origin of that 100,000 immigration target is pretty damning, caused as it was by a slip of the tongue.

No wonder that Vince Cable said,

The case of overseas students illustrates the absurdity of the target and the malign consequences of it. The vast majority of students return home – apart from a few who have special skills and are recruited for post-study work, and some others who illegally overstay. The problem is that we don’t know how many overstay because the Border Agency did not, until recently, count people out as it counts people in. It operates on guesswork and on the basis of an airport survey which is laughably inaccurate and wildly exaggerates the numbers of over-stayers. Liberal Democrats in government sought to institute exit checks but a combination of Treasury cuts, incompetence and lack of backing from the then Home Secretary led to endless delays.

Instead, the wrongly estimated numbers of net migrants in the form of overseas students inflated the overall numbers and fuelled the immigration panic. There was undoubtedly some abuse and some bogus colleges, but on the assumption that enormous numbers of students were here illegally and that universities and colleges were complicit in these scams, the Home Office cracked down on overseas students in general. My Department of Business stopped the more draconian controls but large numbers, especially from India, have been deterred from coming here and go to the USA, Canada and Australia instead, depriving British universities and colleges of income and British firms of access to expensively trained engineers and scientists who are forced to leave after graduation.

The courts have ruled that 48,000 overseas students have wrongly, and illegally, been sent home without completing their courses, in some cases sacrificing a lifetime of earnings and borrowings by a poor family. One of Britain’s most successful export industries – higher education – was, and is, being sacrificed by Theresa May’s Home Office in pursuit of the immigration target.

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