May 22: More pledges on immigration

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IF THERE is one thing that David Cameron should be an expert on by now, it is promises to cut immigration. Having said before the 2010 election that annual net migration would be reduced to the “tens of thousands”, the Prime Minister then watched the figure soar to 298,000, higher than when Gordon Brown was in office and fuelling the rise of the UK Independence Party.

Now it seems that Mr Cameron is at it again, promising new changes to immigration laws, which, he insists, will definitely deter migrants from heading to the UK.

As the latest figures show net migration rising to 318,000, however, it is likely that Mr Cameron is setting himself up for yet another damaging failure to meet his own promises.

For one thing, as the Government knows only too well, a significant proportion of immigration is from the EU and entirely legal. And even if a cap was put on welfare claims, as is being mooted, it is unlikely to have much effect, considering that most EU migrants come here to work, not to claim benefits.

Nor is it clear that this free movement of labour would end if Britain left the EU following the forthcoming in/out referendum. Indeed, if access to the single market were to be retained, it would be impossible to stop it.

In fact, it is equally as difficult, in this globalised world of cheap labour and open borders, to prevent non-EU migration.

The number of migrants heading to this country is testament to the Prime Minister’s success in reviving the UK economy and, as long as that revival continues, mass immigration is an inevitability. And the harsh reality is that those who are crossing continents, risking everything, to try to build new lives in the UK are not going to be deterred by being told that there are new penalties for working illegally.

The Government needs to lower its horizons and try to manage migration as effectively as it can rather than make grandiose pledges of huge reductions in migrant numbers. Otherwise, Mr Cameron risks over-promising and under-delivering yet again.

Plans derailed

Public’s lesson in union power

EVEN THOUGH two unions have now called off their threatened rail strike, which it had been anticipated would see 90 per cent of trains cancelled next week and Yorkshire reduced to Bank Holiday misery on Monday, disruption is still feared.

Decisions already made mean that some services may still be cancelled, at a huge cost to the economy as well as the travel plans of families seeking a hard-earned holiday.

Indeed, the very uncertainty of the situation provides a graphic illustration of the callous disregard of the rail unions for the consequences of their actions. On the contrary, the strike had clearly been timed to cause the maximum amount of disruption and threats of further action still remain.

Having already rejected a four-year, inflation-linked pay deal and a promise of no redundancies for two years, the union leaders have clearly demonstrated that they have no understanding of either Britain’s economic situation, or the lives of the countless workers who can only dream of such assurances.

Yet these union barons are the very people who are determined to choose Labour’s next leader and influence the party’s policies for years to come. No wonder Labour is accused of being out of touch. And no wonder there is so much public support for Government plans to restrict trade union power.

Back to Dunkirk

Celebrating Little Ships’ miracle

IT IS frequently said, in relation to Dunkirk, that only the British would celebrate a military defeat.

As the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the evacuation got underway yesterday, however, the reminiscences of the few remaining veterans were enough to convince anyone that, while the fall of France was a defeat, Dunkirk itself was a triumph.

The courage of the crews who manned the Little Ships, that ramshackle fleet of yachts, fishing boats and lifeboats which faced down the might of the German army to save hundreds of thousands of British, French and Belgian troops, was scarcely to be believed.

And not only did this extraordinary act of heroism save lives, it also dealt Hitler a severe blow and ensured that the bulk of the British Army could regroup and fight on.

Soon, those men who provided what Winston Churchill called this “miracle of deliverance” will be gone. Before it is too late, therefore, let us celebrate this victory with them

once again.