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London Mayor warns against migrant cap

Sep 17, 2010, 12:45 PM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye, The Point's UK correspondent

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has warned the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government against any attempt to cap the number of migrants coming into Britain. The Mayor, who previously denounced similar moves, is insisting that 'limiting the number of migrants to Britain will damage the economy.'

It is vital to note that Johnson is from the Conservative party and, therefore, such statements, according to experts here, have put the mayor at odds with his Conservative colleagues and friends in government.

Nonetheless, the coalition government said it will limit the numbers of workers from outside the EU, prompting some supporting it in government strongly arguing that the British are 'increasingly shut out of the tight jobs market,' thus the importance of such a cap.

Consequently, supporters of the cap are also revealing that net migration to the 'UK soared by 20 per cent in 2009 to 196,000, despite the recession, and demanding a cap as soon as possible.'

The Mayor of London, who hinted he will run for office for the second time, called for a 'major rethink of government policy' in limiting the numbers of migrants.

Johnson said: 'It puts the economic recovery at risk by creating skills gaps, and placing London at a competitive disadvantage in the global competition for talent and inward investment.'

The Conservative party during its election campaign had promised to put a cap on migrants and thus, according to experts, is determined to press ahead with its 'controversial election manifesto.'

One of the main reasons why the issue is even more interesting is the fact that the Liberal Democrats, who are part of the current government, had also refused to accept such a cap. The Liberals insisted that a cap is not the 'best option' and instead demanded an 'amnesty' for certain groups of migrants who spent a longer period in the country, and had fulfilled certain relevant criteria.

Migrants coming from outside the EU will be affected, because the government is powerless to block migrants from the EU member states due to relevant EU law.

Since the issue re-emerged, respected political pundits noted that Johnson's principled stance on the government’s migration policy is actually a 'blow to Prime Minister David Cameron's own authority.' However, government officials said that the two are not at odds in any way, even though they differ on the issue.

But Johnson has made it absolutely clear that 'a cap would have a significant negative and disproportionate impact on London.'

The mayor also argued that such migrants make a 'substantial contribution to the UK economy,' and Johnson's view is supported by the business industry, which had strongly echoed and reinforced such a statement.

However, the immigration minister, Damian Green, who is also from the Conservatives, disagrees and maintains that 'British businesses should end their reliance on migrant workers.'

It seems that the pressure to cancel such a cap is now coming from various quarters. The Council chiefs have also added their voice to the debate, informing the government that a cap on overseas social workers will 'weaken child protection teams, putting vulnerable children at risk.'

Furthermore, the Association of Directors of Children's Services also urged ministers to 'rethink temporary restrictions' on the number of skilled workers from non-EU countries.

Even though both the current Home Secretary and the immigration minister are both adamant that the cap will, in fact, take place, several officials from both sides of the aisle are calling for the proposal to be discarded. They said they will continue to fight against the proposal.

A highly respected pundit, who is also taking part in the debate, told this correspondent that 'anything is possible in a coalition government, especially one consisting of Conservatives and Liberals and, therefore, people must wait and see what may happen next as far as the cap issue is concerned.'

It is true that, what is certain now is, everyone is 'waiting' as the debate continues to unfold.