Against her secretive inclination, details of Theresa May’s immigration policy proposals leaked into the public domain today via, among others, the Guardian newspaper. Attempting to justify her intention to end EU citizens’ freedom of movement immediately upon Brexit, she said the move was needed in order to ease the strain such migration could place on the delivery of public services.
I took very careful note of the word “could”, there. She conspicuously did not say ‘the strain such migration does place on the delivery of public services’. Based on some correspondence I had with my MP recently, I have a pretty good idea why. I wrote to my MP, who also happens to be a doctor, to ask if he had any figures for the cost to the NHS of treating non-entitled patients in his constituency. After all, as a doctor and former PPS to a Health Secretary, I imagined he’d want to have a grasp of that kind of factor in the formation of health policy.
He didn’t have the figures, but forwarded my letter to the current health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, whose office replied that the Department of Health didn’t have such data either. They suggested that I ask the NHS Trust that covers my MP’s constituency. Obviously, given his initial response, he hasn’t asked them, and equally obviously, neither has the health secretary or his department.
In other words, the simple answer to the question “how does the government know the extent to which EU migration places a strain on the delivery of public health services?” is: they don’t. They don’t have the figures, and haven’t asked the bodies that do. Their policy clearly isn’t based on evidence, and everything I’ve seen suggests it’s based on nothing more than instinctive xenophobia and the worst kind of demagoguery. I’m ashamed to share their nationality.