133.The decision to hold the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union has triggered a national debate on immigration which is long overdue. The Archbishop of Canterbury told our predecessors that “we never serve ourselves well by neglecting to look facts in the face. The reality is that in many communities there is a great degree of nervousness about immigration.” Immigration is as much a local issue as a national one. While dialogue is important for building consensus—and the work of British Future and UCL’s Citizens’ Assembly show that an appetite for it exists—local concerns about such issues as overcrowded rental accommodation, low level anti-social behaviours, and pressures on health, housing and education, and national concerns about the protection of workers’ rights, need to be addressed by evidence-led policy responses.
134.This inquiry and the work of British Future has involved meetings where groups of individuals from different backgrounds and with a range of political views came together and engaged in rational debate. People taking part in citizens’ panels and assemblies clearly welcomed the opportunity to engage with complex issues, particularly when they were provided with information which enabled them to take a considered approach. They have shown that when issues move beyond general opinions on immigration levels to attitudes towards different kinds of immigration, towards individuals and families, and towards the impact of migration, their views are nuanced; and that when issues are disaggregated there is more common ground between people than there is division to set them apart.
135.The Government should use this evidence of consensus as a foundation on which to build public confidence that immigration policy can work in the best interests of everyone and that it will be fair, principled and robustly enforced.
143 Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee HC (2015–16) 51, Q1
12 January 2018