The next move: immigration
Updated: Mar 9
Action from the Prime Minister is well underway and the potential outlook for the country is starting to take shape. The Government says it has taken 'back control of our borders' and will implement a points-based system. What does it mean?
Quite a few things have happened since I last wrote for this website a week ago. ‘A week is a long time in politics’, of course, and the current Prime Minister is by now more than sufficiently attuned to the reality behind that quote from a predecessor. ‘Britain’s new migration policy is a gamble’ declared the Financial Times earlier today, headed by: ‘Brexit Britain gambles on a new migration policy’. You may notice a common word in these two statements and my own heading last week; the general direction in the swing of Britain’s future pendulum will be much like that of the Prime Minister’s. In a week, the Prime Minister effectively sacked a Chancellor who had never given a Budget, shook the Cabinet, tightened Whitehall to his will, came at loggerheads with the EU’s chief negotiator for shutting down the prospect of a Canada-style trade deal, and helped unveil a new immigration system after deciding to boot at least 50 Jamaican offenders out of the country.
Meanwhile, Labour is doing its best to hold the Government to account by defending transgenderism (maybe because the party has lost its own traditional identity), reviewing a feminist book and putting candidates on stages who embody either blandness or Jeremy Corbyn. In apparently no attempt whatsoever to reach out to its lost voters, Labour only spat at the plans from the Home Office and Christine Jardine of the Liberal Democrats even used the word ‘xenophobia’ to describe what she thought was present in the origins of the new plans pushed through by the daughter of Sushil and Anjana Patel. Both parties are not necessarily wrong, but these outdated responses will do them no good; politically, they are losing the drifting plot. While some commentators even argue that the Tory plan is not radical enough, the public finally gets to see more and changed initiative on the immigration question, a true change from Blair, Brown, Cameron and May by a Brexiteer Prime Minister. Most numbers - like almost all numbers around immigration – won’t matter, while ‘xenophobia’ is utterly devalued as a comment. All that is needed is a change in policy and a reduction in numbers coming to the country and we will have to blame employers if not ourselves when things go awry – quite the move from a Tory, and another pelting for every other party.
So, what do we know?
Most financially comfortable international students are relatively safe. According to the Home Office, they can enter the UK if they speak English, have secured a place in an 'approved' educational institute and can provide their own financial support.
Migrants will need 70 ‘points’ to enter the country, with 50 of these obtained from fluency in English, a job offer and necessary skills. For the remaining 20 points to be obtained, some exceptional prerequisites will be required through ‘four routes’: a relevant PhD; a salary over £25,600, which is down from the previously proposed figure of £30,000; a PhD in lieu of a +£25,600 salary ('migrants will still be awarded points for holding a relevant PhD or if the occupation is in shortage, which they will be able to trade against a salary lower than the ‘going rate’: 10% lower if they have a relevant PhD in a non-STEM subject; 20% lower if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject; or 20% lower if the occupation is designated in shortage by the Migration Advisory Committee'); or a job in high demand. This is to bump-up low skilled employment figures of British workers while attracting highly skilled migrants to bump-up the country. The plans may be frustrated, however, when it is hit home that those in education, training, sickness and retirement make up the vast majority of the economically inactive, and the former two are unlikely to opt for jobs for unskilled workers. Retail, construction and farming are examples of the sectors with greatest concern. The Head of the Civil Service, Sir Mark Sedwill, has argued that people should no longer be encouraged to retire in their 50s, which is backed by the fact that health tends to deteriorate for those who drop out of work early, and careers should become ‘pluralist’. This may include skilled graduates working an unskilled job as one part of their employment portfolio in an era of drastic changes in the approach to careers and pensions.
Nursing and social care will likely be in even higher demand for workers, threatening several possibilities including lower pay, lower standards as it may become easier to become a nurse or carer and of course, unmet needs of the ageing population. An increase in the intensity of the social care crisis will lead to more pressures on NHS and could even jeopardise desires in the Tory Party to slash taxes. The new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to deliver the Budget on March 11. Workers in these sectors may be frustrated with the proposals considering the likely pressures ahead.
However, Patel’s new immigration plans matched with more action from the Government to push businesses into increasing the amount and productivity of British workers could work out in the long-term and sustainably cut immigration while boosting the economy for the benefit of all.
However, Tory plans presented to the working class often fall short because Tories are Tories. This country needs to make work sell to attract our low skilled workers and unemployed to productive work. Increasing university numbers, early retirements and deteriorating health and willingness to work low paid, low skill jobs work against plans to cut immigration without hurting the economy using this points-based method. Furthermore, it is questionable if Patel’s plan will significantly cut immigration numbers. She also needs to deliver her promise to crackdown on illegal immigrants. In addition, for the world and in the long-term, immigration may best be reduced by keeping talented individuals in their own countries, which will sustainably improve them. Sir Mark Sedwill speaks of ‘technological transfer’ from countries like our own to the developing world to sustainably drive them forward. Most sustainable of all may be talented nationals driving their own countries forward.
It seems we need to decide on what sort of transfer we want. Patel’s new plan may not deliver the most sustainable one for anybody.