UK Conservatives split on the question of immigration

London

A senior minister from the conservative coalition in the UK has been rebuked by the Prime Minister David Cameroon for saying that migration from within EU has had mostly positive effects on the economy and the society in the UK. Kenneth Clarke, a veteran Conservative politician who served in Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet in the 1980s, told The Financial Times, that immigrants from the EU had made ‘a positive contribution to our economy’.

He is usually regarded as a europhile, a position that becomes very rare in the conservative party as it is more and more regarded as eurosceptic. During the last five years the three main parties – The Conservatives, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats tried to outdo each other in expressing their “tough” views in immigration.

This behaviour has been encouraged by the fact that many polls have shown that the UK public is increasingly Eurosceptical and anti-immigration. According to Mr Clarke, it will be impossible for the single EU market to work unless people are allowed to move freely from country to country.

In addition to that, he called people who want to stop EU immigrant coming to the UK “escapists”. ‘The idea that you can have some fundamental debate that somehow stops all these foreigners coming here is rather typical right-wing, nationalist escapism, I think’, he said. At the same time, Prime Minister Cameron faces pressure from all sides to oppose the incoming immigration flow from Romania and Bulgaria whose citizens have unrestricted right to live and work in the UK after 1 January 2014.

The far-right party UKIP opposes the liberal immigration policies and the membership of Britain in the EU. Mr Clarke is one of the very few conservative politicians who has been supportive of the EU. Many think that this is the reason why he was not able to assume a leadership position in the conservative party.

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