Back in the early days of the referendum, when (on the pro-Brexit side, at least) different factions were vying for the official designation, we heard a lot about the different tone of the contenders.
One group, Leave.EU, was said to be associated more with UKIP and, therefore, would represent a campaign based more on the issue of immigration than their rivals, Vote Leave. The latter group won the official campaign designation from the Electoral Commission, and were keen to stress that their approach would be less anti-immigrant and more optimistic about global trade and an outward-looking Britain.
Now, with less than a month to go until the vote, there's talk of the Leave campaign preparing to focus on the thorny issue of immigration. Some have suggested that such a move would be reflective of a campaign reaching for its political comfort blanket. Whatever happened to all that 'positive, outward-looking Britain' sentiment we were told to expect? And yet, Vote Leave would be crazy not to campaign on the issue of unrestricted EU migration. The issue sits consistently at the top of voters' concerns. What's more, responding to such concerns can be entirely consistent with a commitment to promoting a positive, outward-looking vision of Britain outside the EU.
This newspaper is enthusiastically pro-immigration, and has long made the case for easing the burdens employers face in bringing in skilled workers from across the world. Our future economic growth depends upon international talent living, studying and working in the UK.
The issue isn't whether Vote Leave should mention immigration or not, but whether it resists the urge to simply pander to the concerns the issue generates. In other words, it should make the case that reducing unskilled EU migration would allow us to be more discerning in accepting those from around the world with desirable and vital skills – be that in finance, healthcare or construction.
The good news is that this appears to be exactly the case put forward by Boris Johnson yesterday in response to the latest round of published migration figures. Commentators should resist the urge to sigh “I knew they'd descend to this…” whenever Brexiteers mention immigration. Provided, that is, that the Brexit camp continue to recognise the benefits of a more international and outward-looking system.