The problem with resorting to Brexit in order to “take back control” over immigration, is that it was never necessary. As Vince Cable has pointed out before, even within the EU, there are controls over immigration that were open to us,, but were never applied – not under Blair or Brown, and not under Cameron or May. That includes the time when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Not only did she not attempt to apply the controls that she could have done under EU regulation, she also failed to enforce the regulations nominally in force, instead cutting back on the numbers of border control staff and police who could have been apprehending illegal immigrants.
Now even Tony Blair has pointed this out. In today’s Red Box email, from The Times:
Today’s big story is Tony Blair’s explosive demand for tough new immigration rules. The former prime minister says that “leave” voters’ concerns “cannot be ignored” and that the open borders he presided over in office are no appropriate.
Blair says Britain should force EU migrants to register on arrival, so they can be counted in and out of the UK, and ban those who fail to do so from renting a home, opening a bank account or claiming benefits.
In a policy paper for The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, he also recommends restricting free healthcare for unemployed migrants and letting universities and businesses discriminate in favour of British citizens.
Blair’s intervention will make grim reading for Theresa May as it makes clear she does not enforce existing rules that already permit the removal of EU migrants who do not find work after three months in the UK. Nor were they enforced during her time at the Home Office.