Friday, October 29, 2010

David Cameron sends mixed signals on immigration

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London October 26, 2010

UK Prime Minister David Cameron today assured the country’s business leaders that even though his government was committed to bringing immigration to a manageable level, his government’s forthcoming policies would allow smooth flow of talent into the country.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Cameron said: “...let me give you this assurance, as we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world.”

In less than five months into the government, this assurance from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government comes on the back of a pre-election promise that the new government would set a cap on non-EU immigration into the UK.

In June this year, the coalition government had announced an annual cap on immigration from non-EU countries into the UK that would be limited to 24,100, or five per cent less than last year’s.

It was also assured that this was a temporary policy. Permanent limits on non-EU economic migration routes was then said to be decided and put in place by April 1, 2011. The new government has been in consultation with businesses on the details of how the final limit would be delivered, details of which would be available by the end of the first quarter next year.

Reacting to Cameron’s assurance, CBI Director-General Richard Lambert said: “It was encouraging that he encompassed all parts of the economy, from broadband to ports and from transport to energy. He also made it clear that access to finance and immigration would not be barriers.”

Cameron also reiterated his government’s commitment to partner with India (and China) in developing stronger economic ties. “I believe one of the most important things the government can do is drive trade. Last year, the share of UK exports to China and India was just 3.2 per cent. Indeed, the UK exports more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. These are shocking figures.”

“My approach is clear, British business should have no more vocal champion than the British government and that’s why I have put the promotion of British commerce and international trade at the heart of our foreign and economic policy. So, when I went to India this summer, I took the biggest visiting delegation of business leaders and entrepreneurs of any prime minister in recent memory,” Cameron said.

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