I am delighted to be able to introduce the debate. There is no doubt that immigration is a sensitive and often controversial subject. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss ways in which we might reshape our immigration system so that we have control not only over the numbers coming into the United Kingdom, but over the nature of those individuals wishing to work, study and make our country their home.
To be absolutely clear, I am not advocating an increase in immigration. I am, however, seeking to establish ways in which we can have better immigration. What do I mean by better immigration? I am referring to the re-establishment of the United Kingdom’s ability to be selective about who enters and settles in our country and the ability to favour immigration from countries with which Britain enjoys long-standing cultural and historical links, where English is the common language and with which we share values and principles, the rule of law, and common judicial and parliamentary systems. I am of course talking about the countries of the Commonwealth of nations, most notably the 15 realms with which we have an even closer bond and shared constitutional link in Her Majesty the Queen, who remains as much their Head of State as she does ours.
In spite of those special ties, since our accession to what was known at the time as the Common Market, Britain appears to have discarded the potential for trade, immigration and co-operation with the Commonwealth to accommodate the new European political union, which dominates so much of how we are governed today. It is time for a radical rethink.
Our immigration system is in need of complete reform and the British people are demanding change. Indeed, the time has surely come to enforce a total overhaul of the way we operate immigration in the United Kingdom, but we can do so only if a British Government, elected by the British people, can decide what British immigration policy is. We have a broken immigration system—a system in which we have neglected the possibility of positive immigration from our wider Commonwealth family to accommodate uncontrolled and indiscriminate immigration from within the EU. As a result, for example, over the past 13 years immigration from Australia and New Zealand—two nations with which we have a shared history and culture like no other, expect perhaps for Canada—has almost halved, whereas immigration from EU continues to rise at a rapid pace.
The members of the Commonwealth network of nations and territories are not part of the EU, apart from Malta, Cyprus and Gibraltar, so they have been the losers as our UK Government have sought to reduce immigration. Meanwhile, the citizens of any country that happens to have been accepted into the EU can freely enter our country without restriction.
Immigration has always been a feature of Britain’s social and economic development, over many centuries, and it has been without doubt overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority coming to our country to work and contribute as hard-working people. It must surely be, however, the absolute right of every nation—especially a country the size of the United Kingdom, where there have to be limits—to control its own national borders and to determine its own immigration policy. With free movement from the EU, though, we have given up that right.