What does Nigel Farage’s U-turn on immigration caps mean for lawyers?

‘Confusion’ seems to be the buzz word du jour in Nigel Farage’s UKIP party. Just days after reaffirming his party’s commitment to a fifty thousand a year immigration cap, Farage has back peddled, claiming that such a number is unreasonable and that UKIP will not mandate these kinds of ‘arbitrary targets’.

Perhaps Farage and the gang have realised just how difficult it is to control immigration numbers, particularly in the wake of an ever expanding European Union. In fact, the Conservatives themselves had set a one hundred thousand per year target at the start of their last governing term, but they have failed to keep numbers anywhere near this figure.

Currently, UK immigration figures (from the EU and the rest of the globe) sit at approximately three hundred thousand new residents per year. Farage seems to have cold feet when tasked with providing a nuts and bolts strategy on how he would reduce this number six fold.

In Farage’s own words

At a press conference in London on March 3rd, Farage claimed that this change in election strategy was not due to fears that the fifty thousand cap was a flawed goal, but instead a change of priorities. He claimed that UKIP have “changed emphasis on policy away from caps, a culture which is now discredited. There is an obsession with targets in the media or political class. If you promise a cap they [the British public] won’t believe you and they will switch off.”

“We have not abolished the cap – we have made it clear that we think these are ballpark figures – 20,000 to 50,000 – but we want to talk about policy and not caps.” Despite this apparent wavering on the party line, Farage insisted that “there is no U-turn, there is a change of emphasis.”

 A Change of Heart for UKIP?

 All of this talk of abolishing immigration caps and abandoning one of UKIPs key party platforms has political strategists and average joes alike questioning whether Farage is panicking in the lead up to the May election. After all, UKIP can be accused of being a one issue party, known in the past for their heavily weighted emphasis on immigration reform.

Is it possible that Farage and his party know that this topic does not play out well to voters in urban centres and across many of the UK’s multicultural cities and towns? It is far too easy to quote the UKIP party and paint them as a group of racist xenophobes – and while this may appeal to voters in certain ridings, a run for Westminster will certainly be spoiled by such sound bites.

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