Prime Minister Theresa May was speaking on LBC when she hesitated before answering the question over whether she would back Brexit now, were there another referendum held in 2017.
Here is our Prime Minister, who backed ‘Remain’ in the referendum last year and now wants us to leave the European Union at any cost.
Before the referendum, Theresa May was the longest-serving Home Secretary in living memory; but there was little mention of either the economic illiteracy she displayed on immigration, or of how her unjustified suspicion of migrants may have affected the Brexit result.
Brexit or no Brexit, it is clear that we have to control our borders and identify who is leaving and entering our country.
However, the former Home Office head of immigration enforcement David Wood has only just rightly pointed out that the Home Office is operating at capacity, even before taking into account the 3.6 million EU nationals who will need to be registered and assessed during Brexit, under an as-yet-unclear process.
Applying his own experiences, Wood calls out the impossible task facing this already-creaking department.
Speaking at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee this week, his estimate on the number of immigrants currently living in the UK illegally appalled many. He admitted that there could be over one million illegal immigrants, unknown to authorities, in this country.
Neither he nor I, nor even the Home Secretary, knows the true figure.
This maintains a long-standing tradition in the public service of questionable data-gathering; starting with the use of International Passenger Surveys (IPS) to estimate emigration, a practice the Office for National Statistics branded “experimental”.
As I have pointed out previously, these figures are unreliable to the point of being nonsense. Prime Minister Theresa May referred to a figure of 100,000 international students overstaying their visas illegally, only for e-exit data later to determine the figure to be closer to 4,600.
I have repeatedly asked the government to make these figures available and, time and again, I have demanded that the Home Office make clear the reality of its shortfalls in bringing control and order to our borders.
By now, Theresa May’s 100,000 figure has, shamefully, permeated the national debate on immigration, creating unfounded fear and obscuring the true value of international students to the UK economy.
International students bring in £25 billion annually to UK GDP, as well as allowing the UK education system to maintain an exceptionally high academic standard. Yet our politicians’ rhetoric sends an unwelcoming message to the world. It is largely because of this rhetoric that we have seen a drop of over half in the number of Indian students studying in the UK since 2010 – a huge impediment to our soft power and our economy.
We would not be suffering such harmful confusion and uncertainty over immigration if we had accurate data regarding who is entering and leaving our country.
Both the Home Office and Number 10 should prioritise implementing visible, physical exit checks at our borders. Legislating for this is straightforward. Exit checks were removed by Tony Blair in 1998, effectively ending our ability to monitor and police our borders.
Bringing them back would not be difficult because we have the technology, and it would be worth the investment solely from a security point of view, with security being the Government’s number one concern for its citizens.
Previous government data has been out by a factor of 20. Just as the faintest pencil is better than the sharpest memory, the most basic exit checks will outperform sloppy Home Office estimates and bring an end to the negative rhetoric with which we have addressed the immigration debate.
We have been misled all this time. The Home Secretary has known all along that these were unreliable figures, even as they stoked the fire of the EU referendum debate, eighteen months ago.
Moreover bringing physical, visible exit checks at our borders and ensuring all passports, EU and non-EU, are scanned in and out of the country will not only give us far more control over immigration but will also help hugely from a security perspective. The number one priority of a government is the security of its citizens and by not implementing this our governments, for almost two decades, have been negligent in their primary duty in increasing a dangerous world; no one more so then our very own PM Theresa May.
This is why I believe that, before long, the British public will see that the Brexit “Emperor” has no clothes. It would be better for our country, our economy, our businesses and our citizens if Brexit were not to take place.