It is often more commonly known that Britain is not very fond of immigration especially as the government is working to tighten the laws of immigration to reduce the numbers. However it’s becoming increasingly clear that the British public are becoming a lot more positive towards immigration and there is better support for a more open and welcoming immigration system.
Data has shown that opinions have been overturned and immigration reform campaigners are speaking for the consensus view in Britain. By 45% to 31%, British people agree that immigration is a positive for the country. Twice as many people agree that immigration enriches our culture and makes the UK a more interesting place to live (47% vs 24%).
Of those who have become more positive towards immigration in recent years have said their main reason is seeing how much people who migrate participate to the UK. There is a large section of the public (27%) whose new positive ways have been changes as they have come into contact with people who have migrated to the UK either at work or in their social life. Overall , half of the British think immigration enriches the UK, while only a quarter disagree.
Meanwhile negative stereotypes about migration have reduced in the UK, less people think that migrants are only here to take away jobs from British people or that migrants are here to take up scarce welfare services. And public satisfaction with how the government is dealing with immigration is at 11% to 57% dissatisfied (this has been steady over the past three years).
Also the percentage of the public who have listed immigration as one of the most important issues facing Britain today have halved from 18% to 9% in two years. This is highly sue to issues such as Brexit crowding the main debate across the whole country.
What lessons are there for people who support a positive, constructive immigration system from these findings? The first is that we should be confident in our message, because we represent the popular position. The narrative that Britain is an anti-immigration country is wrong. We should be talking instead about building, mobilising and amplifying the supportive majority.
Over the past year or so, two stories stand out: the Windrush scandal and the status of EU citizens already resident in Britain after Brexit. Both were notable for being humanising: throughout spring last year, barely a day went by without the newspapers splashing with photos of someone who came to Britain as a child, lived and worked here all their life, but found themselves at the sharp end of the Home Office’s hostile environment. Fears of the same treatment are now being raised by EU citizens who have been part of our communities for years.