BHA Summit: Balls calls for fair and managed migration

The former shadow chancellor Ed Balls says free movement of people will not work – but warns that finding a way to manage migration after Brexit will be hard.

Speaking at the British Hospitality Association Summit yesterday, the politician-turned-Strictly-star said: “Brits do not want to shut doors, they know migration is important.

“Finding a way through Brexit negotiations to make managed migration work for the people and the economy is hard.

“Free movement won’t work; we need fair and managed migration and people will be understanding of migration.”

He made his remarks while reflecting on the BHA manifesto, which calls for an “evidence-based approach to the setting of ‘immigration quotas’ post Brexit”.

Balls said: “Free movement is a catastrophe, it has to be controlled. The EU has to find a way to manage migration.”

Levels of migration from Eastern Europe have been far higher than any politicians had predicted, and assumptions made about globalisation in the 1990s and early 2000s had been wrong, he explained.

“Globalisation turned out to be about people moving; there was economic migration on a much larger scale than people expected,” he told the summit in London.

However, he does expect the next government to have an “increased focus” on supporting growth and creating jobs, as the economic climate will be “difficult”.

“I think the door is more open to this sector saying it can create jobs,” he told delegates.

“You need to say how you can improve skills and get better jobs.”

Ufi Ibrahim, BHA chief executive, said: “With just two days to the general election, there could not be a better time to host this annual summit.

“We are facing the perfect storm with huge industry challenges such as Brexit and curbs on movements, taxation, and business and employment costs.

“Our industry has generated one in five of all new jobs in UK in past five years, so surely it is time for our industry to take its rightful seat in government, and be prioritised as strategic pillar of the economy.”