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By Philippe Legrain ADD COMMENTS

Britain’s immigration system isn’t fit for purpose. Its political targets are perverse. Its guiding philosophy is reminiscent of Soviet-style central planning. The resulting rules are unworkably complex. Their administration by the Home Office mixes incompetence with malice.

The upshot is heavy-handed controls that still leave voters feeling that things are out of control. That’s bad economics and bad politics. Even international students – fee-paying, politically uncontroversial, future ambassadors for Global Britain – are now turfed out once they’ve obtained a UK degree. Madness.

It could soon get even worse. The only bit of the system that works well – EU free movement – is set to be scrapped. Such is the perceived imperative to keep out industrious, enterprising young Europeans that the government seems prepared to sacrifice the UK’s unrestricted access to lucrative EU services markets to do so.

The danger that Britain will pull up the drawbridge is real. But if – a huge if – further knee-jerk populism can be resisted, there is also a political opportunity to craft a more sensible immigration system.

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Posted 03 Apr 2018 in Blog

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