Immigration policies ‘damaging Britain’s standing in the world’

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Immigration and visa policies are damaging Britain’s standing on the world stage and must be urgently overhauled, peers have warned.

British diplomacy is stuck in the last century and risks leaving the UK “outwitted, out-competed, and increasingly insecure”, according to a House of Lords committee.

It calls for an increase in the use of soft power – described in its report as “getting what one wants by influencing other countries to want the same thing through the forces of attraction, persuasion and co-option” – to bolster Britain’s global influence and meet foreign policy objectives.

But peers warn that domestic policies can damage attempts to forge relationships and highlight how almost every expert that appeared before them warned that the coalition’s visa reforms were “harming the assets that build the UK’s soft power”.

They call for students to be removed from net migration targets and a change in tone from the Government in the way it speaks about immigration.

The committee also recommends the creation of a new strategic unit at the heart of Government to swiftly deal with potentially damaging policies or messages coming out of departments, peers said.

The committee highlights a raft of assets in the UK’s soft power artillery, including the dominance of the English language in business, the reputation of British institutions such as the monarchy and legal system, and the commitment to international development.