Starmer: Migration is not the answer to all our problems
Sir Keir Starmer has said migration is not “the answer to all of our problems” as he fleshed out Labour’s mission to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7.
The Labour leader acknowledged there was short-term demand for migrant labour amid workforce shortages, but stressed the need to fix the UK’s “skills problem” rather bringing in workers from overseas.
He used a speech in the City of London on Monday to pledge that his party’s model for growth would increase living standards “everywhere across the country”.
Addressing business leaders, Sir Keir said Britain needs “growth from the grassroots, where wealth is created everywhere, by everyone, for everyone. Where we take off the blinkers to the potential of an active government that sets the direction and where we come together in a partnership, raise our collective sights beyond the day-to-day, deliver the long-term solutions our country needs”.
He continued: “The model for growth that we’re absolutely focused on is a model that increases living standards everywhere.”
He dismissed a model where wealth is created in London and the South East and redistributed to the rest of the UK.
“I want that productivity, those good jobs, everywhere across the country,” he said.
“It can’t be just London and Manchester and Leeds, it’s got to be everywhere.”
Today @RachelReevesMP and I will outline our mission to deliver the highest sustained growth in the G7.
Too many families and businesses across Britain have faced economic hardship and uncertainty under the Tories.
Labour will deliver the stability and growth our country needs.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) February 27, 2023
The Labour leader also emphasised that stability is crucial in attracting investment to the UK.
“We have heard loud and clear about the need for certainty – that basic truth: chaos has a cost – that investors need a clear framework with policies that are always fully costed, fiscal rules, sound and followed rigorously, constraints accepted, institutions respected and not bypassed.
“A rock of economic stability. Our entire mission for growth is built on that, and don’t doubt it for a second.
“But honestly, isn’t that the least we should expect? I think so. Britain needs certainty, yes, but also change.”
Asked about businesses’ pleas to allow more migrant workers to come to the UK to fill labour shortages, Sir Keir said: “We recognise the short-term problem and we are not going to be anti-business or anti-growth or anti-farming about this and allow short-term problems to create long-term problems.
“But we do have to get ourselves off the idea that migration is the answer to all of our problems.
“We’ve had a skills problem in this country for decades.
“We want to fix the fundamentals. I’m still struck by how many children leave school without the skills they are actually going to need for the jobs they are likely to be doing, the lives they are likely to be leading.”
A visa scheme for industries hit by Labour shortfalls would be “more likely” than granting young people from the European Union access, Sir Keir indicated.
A paper detailing Labour’s plan for meeting and measuring its progress on its growth mission was published before the speech.
The nine-page document says a future Labour government “will create stronger links between our evidence-led, points-based immigration system and our skills bodies to make sure we have the skilled workforce we need”.
The paper also says that having the highest sustained growth in the G7 would mean income growing faster, people having more savings, jobs in new and growing industries, along with vibrant high streets.
It comes on the day Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are set to sign off on a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.
In his speech, Sir Keir said the entire UK needs improved relations with the EU, “not just Northern Ireland”, and “a fixed Brexit deal” is required.
“A reset relationship with the EU, with the whole of the country, not just Northern Ireland,” he said.
Labour’s plan on growth, he added, is “the only show in town”.
After the speech, Sir Keir and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves hosted a roundtable meeting of business leaders, including Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden and Professor Jagjit Chadha of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.