Following our nation’s decision to leave the European Union, I published with Leave Means Leave my proposal for a new direction on immigration after Brexit. It was entitled “A Fair, Flexible and Forward-Thinking Immigration System Post Brexit.”
Brexit gives the UK a once in a generation opportunity to reset policy, procedure and immigration philosophy, not only to reduce immigration to a manageable number but to encourage and promote the trade and growth that helps all sectors of society.
Sadly, Sajid Javid’s new immigration policy is a missed opportunity to achieve this and will fail to lower the levels of immigration into the UK. It is a skills-based policy, of course, and I applaud that. I have been arguing for years that the UK should stop discriminating between nationalities and start choosing immigrants based on whether they have the high skills which this country needs.
This new policy pretends to do that. But it doesn’t. Scrape away the glossy top layer of promises about letting in lots of doctors and engineers and you will find that the new policy broadens the definition of “skilled workers” so much that almost any middle or low-skilled worker will qualify for a visa. By scrapping the Tier Two cap, reducing the academic level qualifications requirement, and abolishing the he resident labour market test it will encourage businesses to look across the globe to fill places and not offer them out to UK citizens or to increase training. It is actually encouraging more immigration.
This is not what the British people wanted when they voted in the Referendum to take back control of our borders. It is however what corporate UK wanted when they started leaning on the Conservatives after the Leave vote.
This new policy shows that corporate UK has won. They and their shareholders want an uninterrupted stream of low-skill, low-paid workers. If a new immigration policy narrowed that stream, corporate UK would have to start investing in new technology to take the place of 1850s-style vegetable pickers and 1950s-style chicken processors. They would have to start spending money on training British workers to take the new, more highly-skilled jobs which would come from capital investment in manufacturing.
Corporate UK doesn’t want to have to spend that money. And as long as cheap, low-skilled workers can come in each year in their tens of thousands, they won’t have to.
Sajid Javid’s new policy is a win for big business. He has been persuaded to use the Migration Advisory Committee as his guide for policy. The committee has already advised the Home Secretary to abolish the cap on Tier Two skilled workers. That means the UK can now receive tens of thousands of medium-skilled workers without a cap on the numbers.
More, the definition of “medium skilled” is being broadened so much that almost anyone who formerly would have been considered low-skilled can now qualify as medium-skilled.
The new policy does not include any limit on family reunion visas. It also cuts student visas out of immigration figures. It does not allow for numbers of migrants coming in as asylum seekers.
This is all figure massaging for big business. It is more evidence that Home Office immigration policy has been captured by corporate UK.
We already know that the same big business interests captured the Government’s Brexit policy. They pushed Mrs May to come up with a withdrawal plan that defies the Brexit vote and keeps this country locked to the Single Market and Customs Union.
Despite that, the Conservative MPs who support a continued heavy stream of immigration are already claiming the new policy is too restrictive. Sarah Wollaston insists that the “skilled workers” visas must also apply to NHS workers who are cleaners and cooks. Sam Gyimah says that a minimum of £30,000 salary per year for tech workers who want a visa is too high.
The fact is that the Conservatives do not want to reduce numbers of immigrants. Sajid Javid’s new policy is just a coat of camouflage paint put over the Conservative’s long-standing policy of “more workers mean cheaper workers.”
This is a lost opportunity. What the UK needs is an immigration policy based on allowing skilled people, from any country, anywhere, to apply on equal terms for a visa to live and work here.
I welcome that this new policy at least ends the privileges given to EU workers over workers from Asia, Africa and the Americas. I regret the new policy actually will allow the vast, almost uncontrolled stream of low-skilled immigrants to come into this country. The new policy only results in people from many new countries to join that stream. That is not border control. That is merely crowd control.