As even the Telegraph turns against immigration rules, has the Home Office finally gone too far?
The income benchmark on spousal visas was always different to other anti-immigration rules. Whenever you mentioned it to someone – even if they were instinctively quite hostile to immigration – they always expressed outrage. Probably because it's an anti-immigration rule which specifically targets Brits. Now even the Telegraph is turning against it, four years after it was introduced.
Today's copy rails against the 18,000 British families torn apart by the £18,600 annual income requirement for non-European spouses of British citizens. This is a policy which has forced married couples to live apart, prevented Brits from returning home once they've lived overseas and forced children to grow up without their mother or father.
The paper quotes the brilliant immigration lawyer Colin Yeo and the equally brilliant pressure group Migrant Rights Network – not the kind of people they usually contact. It even helps promote tomorrow's protest outside the Home Office, organised by campaign group BritsCits, where those affected by the rules will push for change.
Even Labour, whose only response to most Tory immigration policies is to call for them to go further, questions the policy, with immigration spokesman David Hanson calling it "a charge on love".
The income benchmark runs counter to people's instinctive sense of fairness and basic human decency. It contradicts the supposedly family-orientated claims of the government. It is perverse, counter-productive and deeply unkind.
The breadth of discomfort with the rules suggests this is a winnable battle for immigration campaigners. Legal attempts to change the rules have been unsuccessful. But this is one of the rare instances, like the Gurkhas, where a draconian immigration policy could be overturned through public and media support. Theresa May should be worried. That Telegraph piece shows this is a weak spot in the Home Office's anti-immigration agenda