Financial News

  • 27 December 2013, 8:32

Cable Attacks PM Over 'Immigration Panic'

Business Secretary Vince Cable has accused the Prime Minister of panicking on the issue of immigration and comparing that panic with the notorious "Rivers of Blood" speech made by Enoch Powell.

Referring to previous periods of heightened tensions, Mr Cable said politicians had a responsibility to give the facts and not resort to populist tactics.

In a series of attacks on the Conservatives' stance on immigration made on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cable said: "The responsibility of politicians in this situation when people are getting anxious is to try to reassure them and give the facts, not panic and resort to populist measures that do harm.

"The 75,000 cap is illegal and impossible to implement in any event. I think what's happening here, the Conservatives are in a bit of a panic because of UKIP (UK Independence Party) reacting in the way they are.

"All the evidence suggests that they put far more into the economy in terms of tax than they take out in benefits."

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian President has warned David Cameron he risks being judged by history as a Prime Minister who has isolated the UK and damaged its reputation.

Rosen Plevneliev said his countrymen were watching Britain's immigration debate unfold and raising questions about the "democratic, tolerant and humane British society".

Transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will be lifted in two weeks.

Some think-tanks have warned that 50,000 people could arrive from the two countries each year.

Mr Cameron has reacted to concerns about the move with a string of interventions including to limit access to benefits for those travelling to the UK.

At the European Council meeting in Brussels this week he threatened to veto the EU accession of new countries such as Albania and Serbia without strict immigration rules.

One idea put forward by the PM is to set a GDP limit below which countries will not be given free movement of labour if they join the EU.

Mr Plevneliev said he feared for the safety of Bulgarians in Britain. He said "iron curtains" should not remain in the 21st century, arguing this was a time to bring down walls, not to build them.

"Mr Cameron should never forget that a politician is remembered in history not with the everyday business," he said.

Reacting to Mr Cable's comments, a Number 10 spokesperson said: "Vince is a member of the Government and supports Government policy. The words he chooses to do that are up to him."

Meanwhile, Labour has accused the Government of being spilt on the issue. Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: "Government measures could have been taken much earlier and a sense of panic and hyperbole could have been avoided.

"Instead we have the chaos of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary (Theresa May) pretending to pull up the draw bridge and the Lib Dems doing nothing to reform the labour market - both approaches deeply damaging to Britain and local workers."

Mark Field, a Conservative backbencher, has also entered the debate, saying the tough talk on immigration could turn off non-white voters.

He warned Mr Cameron not to repeat the mistakes made by Mitt Romney - the US Republican candidate - in 2012.

He said failure to reach out to the Hispanic community had meant it had failed to understand his stance on immigration.

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