Setting an immigration target will not only harm the Britain’s economy but also damage ties with India, with whom a free trade agreement is sought after Brexit, the Liberal Democrats said on Monday while responding to the Conservative Party’s election plans.
The target of reducing immigration to the “tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands” annually has been much debated since former Conservative leader David Cameron included it in the 2010 election manifesto. It has never been met since.
The target was repeated in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto, and senior leaders say it will also be in the manifesto for the June 8 election, expected to be released shortly. The Liberal Democrats were a partner in the 2010-2015 coalition government headed by Cameron.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “India is a key strategic partner for the United Kingdom and the British-Indian community contribute so much to our country. Liberal Democrat immigration policies will therefore seek to maximise the economic, cultural and social benefit of these relationships and welcome immigration as a blessing, not a curse."
The party’s shadow home secretary Brian Paddick said: “The Leave EU campaign, many members of which are now in the Cabinet, made a clear commitment during the referendum campaign to lift visa restrictions on people from India and other Commonwealth countries.
“It is now clear that this is another Leave lie. Theresa May has betrayed British universities, businesses as well as the £4 billion UK curry industry which is even more under threat following this announcement.”
Paddick added, “Britain’s Asian communities are realising that these complacent, divisive and Brexit-style parties do not represent them and our increase of the vote to 18% in last week’s local election demonstrates the Liberal Democrats are making significant inroads with voters up and down the country, including many Asian voters."
The Liberal Democrats hope to win over a large number of Indian and ethnic minority voters, who voted to remain in the EU in the June 2016 referendum, by promising to hold another referendum on the final deal reached with Brussels on leaving the EU.