The Prospective Immigration Policy of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party

Dr Azeem Ibrahim OBE

The Labour Party, headed by Sir Keir Starmer, finds itself in a favourable position for the upcoming elections. Yet its position on one of the most important topics for the electorate today remains unclear, namely immigration and asylum policy. This is particularly surprising as 1.2 million immigrants made it to the UK’s shores in 2023 alone, including tens of thousands of asylum seekers arriving by small boats, often without identification, through financing smuggling gangs, and raising domestic security risks.

The UK and its peers in Europe find themselves at a crossroads, facing demographic changes within their societies, and subsequent legal and financial challenges that might potentially have international ramifications. With rapid developments taking place surrounding immigration policies, international treaties pertaining to maritime law and the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees face increasing pressure for revision. The UK is positioned to be a catalyst nation on asylum reform, and understanding the historical, legal and political position of the UK Labour Party might explain where its path is heading in demographic policies, immigration and asylum law, international criminology and, indeed, British domestic politics.

This report finds that Sir Keir Starmer’s flagship proposed returns deal with the EU is impossible without the acceptance of migrant quotas from the EU in return. The assessment and analysis of evidence from journalistic, academic and political sources, as well as from Government data and projections, indicates that a Starmer government would mean higher levels of net migration than the status quo, with plausible estimates of increases of more than 250,000 per year. This report also finds little room for optimism that any announced or anticipated policy package could ‘stop the boats’ or reduce the financing of international smuggling gangs

A historical analysis, both of policy and of Starmer’s formative career in Parliament and as Director of Public Prosecutions, shows his key objective to be an electoral one – he first needs to be in power to effect change, even if this is sometimes at the expense of ideological and policy consistency. Yet this kind of analysis also shows where there is consistency, and helps identify, amongst a pattern of policies dropped, the key human rights, rule of law and economic objectives that belie the caricature of his being an insincere or unideological leader. Chief among them, a strict support for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and a desire to train and build skills domestically to reduce reliance on overseas labour.

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party may well be on the verge of a historic election victory. But it will need to provide greater clarity on a key issue of the day like migration policy if it is to survive the scrutiny of an election campaign where its every movement will be judged by the voters it hopes will propel it to victory.

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