Tories 'pandering to right-wing rhetoric' with pledge to cut immigration

The Tories have been accused of using ‘populist right-wing rhetoric’ in their latest pledge to cut immigration.

Priti Patel said a Conservative government will ‘reduce immigration overall’ through the introduction of a points-based system.

At the same time the Home Secretary went on to claim the UK would be ‘open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need.’

She also has repeatedly said that freedom of movement will end after Brexit and any EU citizens wishing to live permanently in the UK will need permission to do so.

Critics have accused the Tories of pandering to right-wing voters by suggesting life in the UK would be better without immigration.

A Twitter campaign entitled #HandsOff has gathered new momentum to remind UK citizens that their neighbours, friends and colleagues could have been born abroad.

Founder of the EU Citizens’ Champion campaign, Tanja Bueltmann, said that since the Brexit referendum millions of people were losing their sense of belonging in the UK.

She added: ‘Sadly, at this point in time we are seeing that the “othering” of people is the go-to argument.

‘The Tory party are nothing but populists pandering to a right-wing rhetoric and immigration is used when they have no other argument.

‘It is a useful weapon to employ at a time of a General Election – especially when there are other issues such as the refusal to publish the Russian interference report.’

Today, Ms Patel urged EU citizens to apply for settled status rather than the Home Office having to ‘pursue them.’

Around 2.4 million people have applied to the scheme but there are an estimated 800,000 still to reach.

There are also 1.3 million UK-born people resident in the UK who will be impacted by the ending of free movement after Brexit, now scheduled for January 2020.

Labour have said they are ‘committed to maintaining and extending freedom of movement’ and would scrap a minimum income requirement in a bid to help the NHS, which is reliant on foreign-born staff.

The Lib Dems meanwhile have accused the Tories of seeking to arbitrarily cut immigration numbers without regard to the consequences.

Home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: ‘Our public services, including our NHS, rely on the contribution that immigrants make but the Tories are willing to put this at risk just to pursue a nationalist Trumpian agenda.’

Professor Bueltmann added: ‘Freedom of movement has always been presented as a one-way street but it is a reciprocal right.’

She added that EU citizens – who cannot vote in the General Election – were feeling ‘very anxious’ about the vote on December 12.

The professor, who works at Northumbria University, said that EU citizens paid more in tax that they took out.

Numerous studies have shown they have no impact on crime figures and there is no evidence of preferential access to social housing.

Professor Bueltmann added: ‘Priti Patel has joined the club of dog-whistlers spouting long-debunked lies about freedom of movement and immigration.

‘We need to remember that this affects individual people.

‘We are your neighbours, colleagues, friends, nurses, doctors.

‘The best we can do to counter this populism is to make people remember that we are part of this community.

‘We are right next to you and we make up part of the UK just as much as everyone else.’

The Tories have always attempted to commit to reducing net migration – the difference between the numbers of people entering and leaving the country – to below 100,000.

They have never met the target and Ms Patel’s statements imply it is a policy they are trying to quietly abandon.

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