January 2019 Institute of Economic Affairs: Post-Brexit Immigration Report

  • Opinion surveys consistently show that the British public is overwhelmingly hostile to immigration.
  • However, if we dig a little deeper into the polling data, a more differentiated picture emerges. Most people in Britain are not per se “anti immigration” or “pro-immigration”. Despite overall hostility to immigration, there are types of immigration that are widely accepted, or even popular with the public.
  • This means that there are opportunities to liberalise our approach to immigration in some respects with popular support.
  • Contrary to the way the debate is usually framed, concerns about immigration are not really about overall numbers. Anxieties about immigration are primarily cultural, not economic.
  • There is a two-thirds majority for free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK (“CANZUK”). This is a clear-cut example of where immigration policy can be liberalised with public support. Free movement between these countries should be introduced immediately, ideally on a reciprocal basis, or unilaterally if not. 

Institute of Economic Affairs


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