UNITED KINGDOM: Labour pledge a welcome relief for foreign students

17 May 2017 Ferado

A Labour government would remove international students from the immigration numbers, a key demand from campaigners who believe their inclusion in the numbers has contributed to an unwelcoming atmosphere, which has been partly responsible for the sharp decline in the number of Indian students coming the country for studies.

The party launched its manifesto, titled “For the many not the few”, ahead of the election on June 8, with pledges to radically change British policy as it existed not only under the Conservatives, but under previous Labour administrations too.
Missed chance for Tories

The decision to exclude students from immigration figures comes after the Conservative government rejected an opportunity — in the form of legislation going through Parliament — to make this change earlier this month. While Britain does not have a cap on student numbers, campaigners argue that keeping students in the net migration figures (despite them not being permanent residents) ensures they remain within the highly charged debate on immigration, and contributes to pressure on governments to bring in tougher measures.

On immigration policy more broadly the party promised “fair rules and reasonable management of migration”, adding that it would put a priority in its future trade negotiations on growth, jobs and prosperity. “We make no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.”

Speaking to The Hindu last year, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn slammed U.K. government’s immigration policy and warned that it would hamper efforts to reach a free trade deal with India. “Labour is pro-trade and pro-investment,” said the Labour manifesto.

Labour said it would work to institute a new immigration system that could include employer sponsorship, work permits, visa regulations or a mix of those, but pledged to end overseas-only recruitment practices.

“Our manifesto offers hope,” said Mr. Corbyn at the launch of the manifesto in Bradford, contrasting it with the Conservative Party’s campaign of “fear”. He spoke about the “grotesque levels” of inequality and pledged to transform 21st century Britain in the way that Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson had in the 1960s.
Radical shift

The keenly awaited 124-page manifesto provides detail and numbers on Labour policies that have emerged in recent months, radically breaking from past Labour commitments. It includes pledges to renationalize the rail and water systems, and parts of the energy system, raise taxes for the top 5% of earners, ensure 60% of Britain’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030, and introduce an Excessive Pay Levy on companies with staff on very high pay.

While recent polls have given the Conservatives a comfortable lead, the gap has narrowed.

One conducted by ICM for the Guardian on Monday found that Labour had gained a percentage from one earlier this month, with 28% support, still 20 points behind the Conservatives. The same poll found that Mr. Corbyn was trusted to do a better job on the NHS, improving public services, and making Britain fairer than Prime Minister Theresa May. However, Ms. May was trusted more on the economy, Brexit negotiations, immigration and protecting the public. The Conservative manifesto launch is expected later this week.