This week, we were delighted to welcome Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, for the latest in our series of #LutherNetwork events.

With Brexit negotiations looming, the question of what the UK’s exit from the European Union means for our immigration policy has become ever more pertinent and recent terrorist attacks have brought issues relating to integration to the forefront of people’s minds.

Sunder opened the discussion by speaking about this polarising nature of the issue of immigration, and the ways in which different countries have reacted to a rising number of immigrants over recent years. Drawing on research carried out by British Future, he highlighted that this revealed that an ‘anxious middle’ exists, combining scepticism about the pace of change with pragmatic views about future policy choices. Sunder went to explore how attitudes towards immigration are implicitly linked to the feeling of optimism and pessimism in a society, and how opinion on increasing or decreasing immigration can diverge according to the skill level of migrants.

Conversation also touched on Brexit, and how Britain’s vote to departure from the EU arguably signalled a vote of no confidence from the public in the handling of immigration policy by recent governments of all political persuasions. Sunder described Brexit as a ‘reset moment’ for immigration policy, and encouraged the need for employers and business advocates to engage constructively with ideas for reform.

Sunder drew his introduction to a close by emphasising that the public have lost confidence in how governments manage immigration, and that a real effort by the Government to engage the public in future choices could contribute to greater trust.


Guests then had the opportunity to talk through the issues raised, with discussion focussing on the merits of alternative immigration systems in countries such as Sweden and Australia, as well as the advantages or risks of deploying a policy of temporary migration. The concept of a more compassionate immigration policy, whereby the Government makes a conscious effort to ensure integration into society, was also raised, as well as the different perceptions of immigration in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the extent to which this was linked to those nations’ different experiences of migration.

Sunder concluded the roundtable discussion by reiterating that British society needs to improve its understanding of the reasons behind public anxieties about immigration, and should try to think about the differing impact that immigration has on different social groups.

Our thanks go to Sunder and our guests for joining us. The next #LutherNetwork event will be with Ian King, Business Editor at Sky News, in July.

If you would like to find out more about Luther Network events, including information on how to attend, please email