Nick Clegg reminder to drawbridge-up Tories on immigration: “We are an open economy”

by Stephen Tall on December 16, 2013

CleggIt’s good to have the old Nick Clegg back today. You know the one I mean: the liberal leader willing to stick up for the free movement of people and take on the anti-immigration populists.

Occasionally that Nick goes missing in action, such as when he advocated security bonds for immigrants from ‘high-risk’ countries entering the UK or when he enthusiastically joined the general hysteria around so-called ‘benefit tourism’.

But today he was back, hitting out at proposals allegedly leaked by the Home Office to impose a cap on the number of EU citizens who can come to work in the UK:

Speaking at his monthly press conference, Clegg said he understood the fears of many people that large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians may seek to claim benefits when travel restrictions are lifted on 1 January.

But the deputy prime minister was highly critical after the Sunday Times reported that May was seeking to impose a cap on the number of EU citizens working in Britain. May’s office is understood to have leaked the findings of the Home Office section of the government’s EU balance of competences review to the newspaper.

Clegg said: “My advice to the Home Office is to spend less time leaking policies that are illegal and undeliverable and spend more time delivering on the policies that we have agreed as a coalition government, notably the reinstatement of exit checks. I remain very frustrated that the Home Office has still not delivered something which I personally insisted should be in the coalition agreement, which is a reinstatement of the checks which allow us to know not only who is coming into this country but who is leaving as well.

“Beyond that I would just state the obvious. If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Finnish engineers or Dutch accountants they can’t come to work it would be a disaster for our economy. We are an open economy. The City of London would grind to a halt overnight. It would be very unwelcome to the two million Brits who work abroad.”

Can we have more of this Nick Clegg, please?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.