No one studying Theresa May’s record as home secretary and prime minister could question her commitment to border control. She has staked everything – her reputation, her authority and, by extension, the future of the country – on this one issue. She wants Britain to admit fewer foreigners, regardless of their country of origin or their motive for making the journey. This wins few friends on the continent, where politicians accuse Mrs May of lying to make her case.
The fixation with outsiders explains the government’s decision to abandon commitments made last year to give sanctuary to unaccompanied child refugees. When Mr Cameron acquiesced to the scheme – introduced as an amendment to a bill cracking down on illegal immigration – the universal expectation was that help would be provided for at least 3,000 children. To date, there have been only 350 beneficiaries of the “Dubs amendment”, named after the peer who proposed it – himself once a child refugee from the Nazis.
Amber Rudd, the home secretary, told MPs on Thursday that the scheme had become “a magnet for people traffickers” and that the government must avoid “incentivising” migration. This is consistent with the prime minister’s position, repeated at an EU summit last week, that the continent should be mindful of “pull factors” encouraging people to make perilous journeys to Europe. This is a disingenuous way to frame the issue. It implies that cutting off the “pull”…