Britain has begun to develop an “absolutely toxic public opinion” on immigration, Vince Cable said on Tuesday.
In a significant intervention, the business secretary said the coalition must be careful not to “inflame” attitudes with anti-immigration policies.
Cable said the opinion of voters was making it increasingly difficult to make an “economically rational” argument in favour of immigration.
His remarks appear to be a warning to David Cameron against going too far with his proposed crackdown on “benefit tourism”. Earlier this year, the prime minister pledged to stop foreigners “abusing” British public services against a backdrop of hardening public attitudes against immigration and increasing support for Ukip.
Speaking to the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Cable directly criticised proposals to hit immigrants with extra charges for using the NHS and bring in stricter visa controls.
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