Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:59 pm on 28th January 2019.

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Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 6:59 pm, 28th January 2019

I mentioned earlier in this debate that I was speaking as a first-generation immigrant. Immigration is an issue that is very close to my heart. My personal experience, especially through my immediate family and relatives, has been not from an EU perspective, but from a non-EU perspective. One good thing about the Bill is that we are no longer focusing on nationality, but, really importantly, on skills and ending this form of discrimination. I know that, in the future, most of the red meat will be coming with the immigration rules, so I shall speak on the substantive points in the Bill.

One of the primary reasons that I supported the withdrawal agreement was because of the reciprocal guarantees on citizens’ rights. As leaving the EU is such a huge fundamental change to this country, it is only right that we have clear rules and that we think very carefully about what the new regime will be like. Quite clearly, this is a country that welcomes migrants; the numbers speak for themselves. For every British citizen who is in the EU, there are four EU citizens in this country, so we know that this is a country that welcomes immigration—that is just EU migration, let alone migration from the rest of the world. One huge challenge has been the language that we use to discuss immigration and, in particular, freedom of movement. I thank the Home Secretary, who is no longer in his place, for taking a lot of the emotion out of this debate, allowing us to focus on the logic, the reason and the substantive issues.

One Opposition Member—I cannot remember their name—talked about negative media rhetoric and about the language that is used to talk about migrants. I think that a lot of that starts from this House. It comes not, as Opposition Members may think, from the language that is used on the Government Benches, but from the whipping up by the Opposition of things that are not necessarily to do with immigration, so that they can get good headlines. I say to Members to look, for example, at how the shadow Home Secretary conflated illegal and legal migration in her opening statement when she was talking about those “Go home” vans. This is not in any way an endorsement of that sort of technique, but it was quite clear that those things were used to talk about illegal migration. This constant conflation of legal and illegal migration is one of the things that whips up the rhetoric. It starts from here and ends up going out there.

Pete Wishart, who is not in his place, intervened on his colleague to say that Tories do not want to see anyone coming to this country at all. That is completely ridiculous.