Lib Dems canvassing in Poplar & Limehouse are warning that the Conservative manifesto commitment to reduce net migration into Britain to below 100,000 a year will have a disproportionately negative impact on Tower Hamlets, by making it more difficult to recruit skilled workers for the local NHS, curry houses and banks at Canary Wharf.
“Like most Conservative proposals, these targets are going to hit us even harder than the rest of the country,” says Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Elaine Bagshaw. “Being able to attract skilled workers from Europe and around the world is critical for our local economy.
“Visas for family reunification and refugees make up approximately 70,000 of new arrivals to the UK every year, whilst skilled workers make up about another 70,000 on top of that, which means the 100,000 target is exceeded well before students and other labour are counted.
“With numbers like that, you’re starting to see how harmful the Conservative target is,” Bagshaw says. “Even if all other forms of immigration were restricted, it would force us to choose between being a compassionate country and attracting the workers we need at Canary Wharf, in our NHS centres and in our local curry houses.”
Bagshaw also points to the Conservative manifesto proposals that would see the Immigration Skills Charge double from £1,000 per employee a year to £2,000. “Small business owners know that making the most of a tight budget is key to success. Our curry houses can’t afford surcharges like that.”
“Leave campaigners like Priti Patel and Boris Johnson promised the curry industry that voting for Brexit would make it easier for them to recruit skilled chefs. These manifesto proposals show how empty that promise was to them.
“For Liberal Democrats, especially here in Tower Hamlets, our choice is simple: Keep Britain open, tolerant, and united, and scrap divisive targets like this that harm our prosperity.”