Last night I had the privilege of attending an event as a guest of recently appointed Pakistan Ambassador to the EU H.E. Naghmana A. Hashmi. There were a number of UKIP MEP colleagues, as well as a solitary Green MEP, and several other guests.
We in UKIP take the view that British exporters have been too concerned with an EU in long-term decline, and should re-focus their efforts on the rest of the world, where the growth is. An important part of that is of course the Commonwealth, where we have strong historic and cultural links, and where growth (in some Commonwealth states at least) is very attractive. Growth in Pakistan seems to be running at around 5% — a figure that we in the West would be delighted to emulate. At a time when eurozone stagnation threatens the global economy, a recalibration of our export efforts is all the more important.
In this context, we were delighted to be able to initiate a dialogue on trade issues with Mrs. Hashmi, and will be talking to other Commonwealth countries.
In my remarks after dinner, I made some points about UKIP’s position on immigration. Too often our opponents seek to present our position as “pulling up the drawbridge and cutting ourselves off from the world”. Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply want a managed immigration policy based on numbers and skills.
What too few people realise is that the policy which the Coalition government operates at the moment, within the constraints of EU rules, is profoundly discriminatory. It discriminates against highly qualified applicants from Commonwealth countries – Canadian doctors, Indian engineers, for example. And in favour of “EU citizens”, many of whom are poor and unskilled, and some of whom, at least, come to Britain for welfare and health benefits. This cannot be right.
Commonwealth citizens arguably have a much stronger claim, for historical reasons, to generous treatment from the UK than do many Europeans.
Cameron is caught in a bind. After Clacton, and Heywood & Middleton, he has finally realised that immigration is a serious issue. But he can do nothing about EU immigration as long as the EU’s “Free Movement” rules are in place (apart from fiddling at the margin with welfare entitlements). So he has to clamp down hard on immigration from elsewhere, including the Commonwealth. This produces the perverse discrimination against the very people who would work hard and benefit our economy.
To favour the poor and unskilled (“Send us your poor and huddled masses”) while excluding the highly-qualified and capable, is to shoot ourselves in the foot. It is the worst possible option both for our social cohesion and our economy. It has to stop. But the only way to stop it is to get Britain out of the EU.