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Friday's Business and Politics round-up

24 Feb 2017
Business person stood up, reading a newspaper

IoD in the news

Financial Times - Romanians and Bulgarians fill gap as Poles depart UK
Yorkshire Post - Fall in migration sparks fears of post-Brexit labour shortage
Bloomberg - U.K. Net Migration Hits 2-Year Low in Brexit Boost for May
Daily Express - Record surge in immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria 

Bye bye-election

In an historic victory in Copeland, the Conservative Party has for the first time in 35 years taken a seat from the opposition in a by-election. If this stunning victory is anything to go by, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party can say goodbye to any prospect of winning a general election.
 
With a sigh of relief, Labour has seen off the UKIP challenge in Stoke-on-Trent, but their leader, Paul Nuttall says the party’s ‘time will come’. This victory is not necessarily a cause for celebration, Labour has held this seat since it was first created and the challenge brought by UKIP should have never been a real threat in the first place. Indeed, this victory for Labour will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the loss of Copeland.
 
Nuttall’s defeat in Stoke will undermine his ambition to replace Labour as the voice of the working class and will leave many questioning the party’s relevance. While UKIP may have tried to bring a challenge to Labour, it seems like the Conservatives have also brought a challenge to Paul Nuttall with their Brexit stance. The newly elected leader finished just 78 votes ahead of the Conservatives. Labour’s Stoke candidate Gareth Snell welcomed the victory and said the people had chosen ‘hope over fear’.
 
The astonishing Tory victory in Copeland will be hailed at Downing Street today. It is the first time the party has won in the constituency for almost a century, and with a pretty healthy majority of more than 2,000 votes for the Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison.
 
The result followed a bruising campaign, fought over jobs in the nuclear industry and the NHS. The Labour leader has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear power industry, upon which the Cumbrian constituency of Copeland depends on for thousands of jobs, including at the neighbouring Sellafield plant. Labour may say the specific local dynamics got in the way of this by-election, but it gives you a real sense of May’s popularity and dominance over Corbyn. She’ll be wondering whether it's time to gather the troops and head for a general election. 

This defeat will force some soul-searching within the Labour Party and its electoral tactics – they must think long and hard about how to re-engage with working class areas across the UK who do not feel represented by their party’s leadership.
 
Although it was too early for the by-election results to be captured in this mornings papers, the Daily Telegraph and Guardian online have highlighted the humiliation for Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile the Sun and Times have focused on the ‘historic’ victory for the Tories. 

Net migrations falls

Net migration to the UK has fallen to 273,000 in the year to September, down by 49,000 from the previous year. This marks the first time in two years that the balance of people arriving and leaving the UK dipped below 300,000, but it is still not anywhere near the Government’s arbitrary 100,000 target.
 
These figures provide the first signs of the effect on immigration since Britain voted for Brexit last summer. However, they also underline that it is unlikely there will be steep falls in immigration before Britain actually leaves the EU.
 
Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, accepted that the Government was not close to achieving its net migration target, but said the figures demonstrated “we can reduce immigration where we can control it”.
 
Immigration was estimated to be 596,000 – 268,000 of those were EU citizens, 257,000 were non-EU citizens and 71,000 were British citizens. Notably, it has been revealed that 74,000 Romanians and Bulgarians have come to the UK, the highest level ever recorded.
 
Some 323,000 people are thought to have left the UK in the year to September, up by 26,000 on the 12 months to September 2015. Of these, 128,000 were British citizens, along with 103,000 EU citizens and 93,000 non-EU citizens.
 
Amberr Rudd denied a rise in people going back to countries such as Poland reflected an uncertainty among EU citizens living in the UK over their futures.
 
The IoD’s Head of Employment and Skills Policy, Seamus Nevin, said “Signs that EU nationals are starting to leave because of the climate of uncertainty are worrying for employers and businesses.”

While business leaders understands that changes to the immigration system are coming, Seamus Nevin said “if in the long-term this means a reduction in the number of skilled immigrants and the range of candidates available to growing businesses, the country as a whole will suffer. We can’t fulfil the positive vision of an open outward-looking country post-Brexit if we close the door to international talent and make it harder to trade in services”.

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