We don’t do party political partisanship around here so allow us to tip toe very gently through this latest proposal from the Labour Party over visas, tourist taxes and waivers. There’s a significant problem with what is being suggested: the end result will be a tax on British people who decide to go to other countries.
The proposal is the following:
Labour will seek to beef up its pitch to voters on immigration with a pledge to pay for 1,000 extra border guards by imposing a charge on visitors from the US and 55 other countries.
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, will criticise other parties for engaging in an “arms race of rhetoric” on the issue, which has been thrust to the centre of political debate by the rise of Ukip.
But she will accept that the opposition “needs to talk more” about public concerns and will say action to restore public confidence that illegal entrants are being caught and dealt with is “vital for a progressive approach”.
Under the proposals, nationals in countries enjoying a “visa waiver” system of fast-track permission to enter the UK will be hit with a charge of around £10 per visit, which the party said would more than cover the £45m cost of the additional staff.
Leave aside what the Tories say about it (roughly speaking, “Yah! Boo! Sucks!” as far as we can see) and leave aside the silliness of such hypothecating of taxes (the amount that we should or desire to spend on one particular thing has absolutely nothing at all, whatsoever, to do with how much we can raise in taxation from either that or any other specific thing. All taxation should be flowing into one pot to be distributed. Think, for a moment, if such a visa tax reduced the number of people arriving legally. Would that reduce our need for more immigration officers to deal with people arriving illegally? Not obviously, but under a hypothecated tax system it would reduce the budget for them).
And consider simply the fact that all visa arrangements are reciprocal. If we demand a visa from the citizens of Dystopia then Dystopia will demand visas from Brits. If we offer a visa waiver scheme for visitors from Utopia then Utopia will offer a visa waiver scheme for Brits going there (Utopia, obviously, being that mythical place where the NHS works).
If we impose a charge on people from 55 countries for a visa waiver then those 55 countries will impose a charge on Brits going to those 55 places. And one more thing: we think we’re right in stating that more Brits go to other places than people from other places come to Britain.
So, the net effect will be a transfer of money from Brits to foreign governments. As more of us will be paying to go to 55 countries than citizens of those 55 countries will be paying to come here.
Making foreign governments richer is a very odd indeed method of increasing revenues to pay for services in the UK.
As at the top there this isn’t party political partisanship. It is instead a call for all politicians to understand Chesterton’s Fence. If you see a fence somewhere you shouldn’t pull it down until you’ve worked out why someone built it in the first place. Only when you’ve understood the original reasons, then ensured that they no longer apply, should you proceed with destruction.
Why do we have visa waiver schemes with no charges? Because visa systems are always reciprocal. We charge them and they will charge us, not obviously to our benefit.
This isn’t about the Labour Party this is about a politician not bothering to think.