The Government has finally published its post-Brexit Immigration White Paper. I think it is fair to say it has pleased no one. Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s former joint chief of staff, pointed out the brutal truth of it:
‘What started out as a plan to reduce and control immigration has, after much ministerial wrangling, led to a policy that is likely to see immigration, including low-skilled immigration, go up, not down.’
This is exactly what we, at Migration Watch, warned of when the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reported in September. In particular we noted in TCW that: ‘The combination of the widening of the skill level, opening the route to the whole world, removal of safeguards for UK workers and abolition of the cap on highly-skilled work permits, may well be seen in the future as a very serious mistake.’
The Government has not listened. Indeed, by proposing short term work visas for the low-skilled, it has not even followed the MAC’s advice, which was not to have such a regime. So, despite the fact that two-thirds of the public want to see a reduction in low-skilled migration, a new route will be introduced for this purpose. These visas will be limited to 12 months after which the holder is expected to return home for a year. What happens after that is not clear, but the route has blatantly been designed to keep these workers out of the immigration statistics as they will, officially, be here for less than a year. That is little more than a way of fiddling the books.
This proposal to admit an unlimited number of low-skilled workers from a range of countries, supposedly for a limited time, is truly astonishing. The Home Office cannot be unaware of the potential for abuse of such a half-baked scheme. They (HO) will know only too well that there is no way in which the departure of such short-term visa holders could be enforced. They simply do not have the resources. As it is, they are able to compulsorily remove only 9,000 immigration offenders per year. To follow this route would be to risk already high immigration levels spinning completely out of control very quickly, as happened when Labour had to close down the scheme for the hospitality sector in 2005 after only a few years, because it was being used to facilitate illegal immigration.
In any case, the benefit to our economy of low-skilled immigration is extremely limited. It creates a lower wage and lower productivity economy, as the chairman of the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has pointed out.
It is shocking that the Government should have caved in so completely to the demands of industry while ignoring the strong public desire to get immigration down and reduce the considerable existing pressures on housing, transport and other services. Furthermore the Government states that it will not even review the short-term work visa regime until 2025.
As for skilled migrants, the suggestion that this route should be open to the entire world with no cap is very unwise. So too is abandoning the requirement for prospective employers to register. This will mean that anyone could bring in workers from abroad. Even more concerning is the absence of any requirement for the job first to be advertised locally. Together this adds up to a scenario which risks immigration numbers going significantly higher than the present levels of 267,000 net migration per annum.
For workers claiming to be skilled, the only hurdle will be a salary level yet to be defined but, as the MAC has previously pointed out, salary levels can be manipulated.
The long and the short of it is that these are stupefying proposals which run completely against the current of public opinion and are likely to result in even more massive levels of immigration. And let us not forget that since 2001, immigration has been adding a million to our population every three years.
The chief winners from this White Paper will be business, as they exploit the bonanza of a huge new pool of labour from around the world while continuing to avoid their responsibility to the public to recruit and train local talent.
The chief losers will be young people trying to find work or to get on the housing ladder. More widely, even current levels of immigration are already a real concern for those who are worried about our increasingly overcrowded country and who wish to preserve our way of life for future generations.