Britain’s former foreign secretary David Miliband, frontrunner in the contest to be the leader of the opposition Labour party, says British government plans to place a cap on non-European migrants to the UK are “stupid” because current migration is mainly fuelled by Europeans.
“Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants to build good relations with India and that’s good but then he has this silly, dangerous and misguided immigration cap. The cap doesn’t fit,” Miliband told HT in an exclusive interview ahead of the September 25 leadership vote.
Miliband, whose main rival in the contest is his brother and ex-climate change secretary Ed, described the ruling Conservative party’s immigration campaign before the May general election as “disgraceful.”
“Immigration was a real people’s issue. But above all, it was an intra-European Union issue. The A8 accession undoubtedly caused difficulties,” he said.
'A8 countries' are the eight East European countries that joined the EU in 2004 – a move that allows their citizens to move and work freely within the 27-nation EU bloc.
The former Labour regime’s response to migration from East European countries was to launch a Points-Based System aimed at controlling and raising the standards of skilled migrants from outside the EU region, mainly Indian workers.
The Conservative proposal to impose a limit on non-EU migrants, according to him, will be counter-productive as the British economy emerges from its worst post-War recession. Net migration – taking into account the number of people leaving Britain – was 163,000 last year during Labour rule, but the Conservatives say they want to bring it down “tens of thousands.” The cap is also opposed by Indian and British businesses as well as the Conservatives’ coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.
“The idea that you want to keep out of the country highly-skilled tax paying people is plain stupid. Either it’s meaningless because the reduction is so small or it’s dangerous — either way it sends a very bad message,” Miliband said.
Miliband, backed by a many Indian-origin politicians, added, “The big thing for me, and I’ve lived this out in this campaign, is that I see Diaspora communities in Britain are in the mainstream and not on the margins.
“And there’s no better example of that than the British community of Indian origin, because it’s a wonderful success story.