The former Prime Minister Sir John Major has today issued a warning to senior Conservative MPs on the risks of their heavy emphasis on immigration in the EU referendum debate. Sir John warned that, “this is dangerous territory that, if handled carelessly, can open up long-term divisions in our society.”
The former Prime Minister’s warning follows on from the release of new National Insurance number data that suggests that immigration from the EU has been substantially higher than official figures have previously indicated.
In response to Sir John’s comments, David Davis MP said:
“Sir John is right to warn that debates on immigration must not slip into xenophobia. But there are also great dangers from ignoring the very real concerns of the voters, and dismissing them as divisive and prejudiced. There are even greater dangers from letting immigration run completely out of control, with all the adverse consequences for families across the country. Ignoring voters’ concerns will cause far greater damage to social cohesion and political participation in the long term, and Sir John is wrong to criticise those who try to contribute to this debate in good faith.
Immigration regularly features as voters’ most important concern. There is real danger from the uncontrolled nature of immigration into this country. Uncontrolled immigration puts pressure on housing, on school places, on hospitals and on jobs. For many people across the country, the very high levels of immigration over the decade or so are having a huge impact on their lives.
As ever, Sir John is making a thoughtful and considered contribution to the debate, and his warning comes from genuine concerns about how the referendum debate may be conducted. But to dismiss people’s concerns as ‘UKIP’ is grossly unfair, and I am afraid that on the substance of his warning Sir John is wrong.”