Indian Immigration and the EU: Tories Hoisted on Own Petard
The Conservative Party’s pretence of “capping” non-EU immigration has been exposed as yet another hoax by the news that the EU has negotiated a trade deal in terms of which thousands of Indians will gain access to work opportunities here, no matter what UK immigration rules say.
The European Union’s "free trade agreement" with India, which is due to be signed in less than two month’s time, will give Indian IT workers, engineers and managers instant immigration passage into Europe.
Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague is already on record as supporting the agreement, as is his Liberal Democrat colleague Vince Cable.
The dilemma facing the Tories is now to persuade their supporters, who are increasingly demoralised as election promise after election promise has been thrown out the window, of how continued membership of the EU can be reconciled with the promise to lower the number of non-EU immigrants.
The European Commission has set a 20-day deadline for comments from EU member states on the agreement which has already been finalised with the Indian government.
In terms of the deal, India has insisted on what it has called “increased mobility” (but actually means unfettered immigration access) for Indians into Europe in return for “reduced tariffs on European products” and the lifting of some restrictions on businesses bidding for public contracts.
The latter move is designed, for example, to keep confidential government files (such as medical records, personal files and so on) in EU member states, rather than letting it be removed to call centres in India.
Britain will, by virtue of its EU membership, be obligated to adhere to this free trade agreement which will utterly destroy the last pretence David Cameron has been able to maintain on the issue of “capped” immigration levels.
The choice is as obvious as it was with the Lisbon Treaty: either accept it, or leave the EU.
Will Mr Cameron choose to lie once again to the voters on the topic? Given his past record, it seems likely.