In the last recorded full year, to March 2019, net migration into the UK from the EU was 59,000 while from outwith the EU it was 219,000.
That table is from racist playground the Migration Watch website. It is a poisonous organisation, but their figures seem to be correctly extrapolated from the Office of National Statistics. There is one matter on which Migration Watch are actually correct, which I will come to anon.
Non-EU net immigration has risen substantially in each of the last eight years. The second most interesting point about the Home Office’s policy statement on the new “points-based immigration system” is that none of the existing routes by which 219,000 non-EU migrants per year enter the UK is to be abolished (paras 12-13, 20-24). So that 219,000 non-EU net migrant figure will not be reduced as a result of these changes. Indeed, as several references in the paper make clear, immigration opportunities for non-EU citizens are increased as a result of this paper.
Those immigration routes for non-EU citizens are increased quite substantially. I anticipate a major surge in immigration from the Commonwealth as a result of this change. The problem the Government will find is that a points based system results in a level of automaticity of qualification. Those from English speaking countries – let’s say Ghana or India, but it is true of scores – already have the language qualification and benefit from good educational systems. Crucially, there are large very established communities from those countries already in the UK which own a vast plethora of companies, which makes securing a job offer much easier. I have no doubt whatsoever that many companies will discover an urgent need for one new accountant and two new systems administrators, and that cousins and brothers with genuine, appropriate qualifications, who previously the family was finding it difficult to bring in to the UK, will now breeze through to work for the family firm.
Speaks English? Yes, 10 points. Job offer? Yes, 20 points. Salary over £25,600? Yes, 20 points. Appropriate skill level? Accountant or IT systems administrator, yes, 20 points. For the avoidance of doubt, I have spoken to people in Ghana today already working on how to make money out of helping people get in through the scheme once it starts on 1 January.
I have written before about the tragic deprofessionalisation of the former UK Immigration Service. The system has been privatised and largely decoupled from Embassies, with visa processing handled by private companies in separate buildings. The vast majority of applications are never seen at all by an immigration professional from the Home Office or FCO. They are handled by very poorly paid employees, often locals of the country, completely as a tick box computer exercise.
In the days when the UK had a real Immigration Service, and I line managed a visa section in Accra which had 22 British professional Entry Clearance Officers in it, the very wise Chief Immigration Officer Myron Reid used to tell his staff always to remember it was not the documents they were admitting to the UK, it was the person. The key test was; did you believe the individual and should they be admitted, not how much paperwork they could produce, verification of which was always very difficult. Nowadays the much lower paid, private sector employed drones taking the vast majority of decisions seldom see the individual. The paperwork is all that counts. This will be still more the case as they tick the boxes to add up the 70 points.
I make this forecast with confidence. The net result of these changes will be increased net immigration into the UK, with a substantial spike in non-EU immigration visible in the March 2021 annual return. This is the other point on which Migration Watch are actually correct. The difference is, of course, that I very much welcome the increased immigration opportunities which will arise and believe the increased immigration is essential to our economy and society. I also find it irresistibly hilarious that the large majority of those who voted Brexit and voted Tory, who were primarily motivated by racism, will as a consequence face a substantive surge in non-white immigration. You would need a heart of stone not to laugh at that.
It is also worth noting that, while the freedom of movement with the EU was reciprocal, it is being exchanged for a new policy that will not be. It is going to be far easier for an Indian citizen to qualify to work in the UK, than for a UK citizen to go and work in India.
Do I believe that the government is deliberately seeking to increase non-EU migration? No, I don’t. I think they are just massively incompetent, have misread the effect of the points-based system which was only a vote-winning slogan, and have not understood the lack of control of implementation resulting from their austerity destruction of the professional Immigration Service.
I appreciate this is not the analysis that has been given from pretty well all other left wing thinkers. They have chosen to fight this as a radical restriction of immigration. Of course, what is lost is freedom of movement. It will be harder for EU nationals to come and work here and particularly in jobs the government deems as low-skilled. I utterly deplore the loss of free movement, which was one of the great societal advances of my lifetime. However, I suspect that many EU citizens who wish to live in the UK will still manage to gain employment that fits with the government’s rules. I want for a moment to consider the question of labour shortages in certain industries, which has dominated media debate on the points based system to date.
Firstly it is worth noting that, if not deterred by the ludicrously costly bureaucracy – and that is a real bar to genuine applicants – the paper has sufficient loopholes to allow immigrants, including EU immigrants, to come for work in many of the areas where shortages are feared. Nurses, for example, will not have to meet the minimum salary threshold, because in the NHS and other institutions national pay scales will take precedence over the minimum salary of £25,600 (para 4). In the building trade, plasterers and electricians will count as skilled. What constitutes skilled work is peculiarly arbitrary – anyone who thinks filleting fish is unskilled work should try it. Still more arbitrary is the notion that salary defines the value or the skill of work done. Care work doesn’t seem to me exactly easy.
The fundamental takeaway from this policy is that people who earn under £25,600 are viewed as inferior beings. It is remarkable that a government that claims its aim is to end discrimination between EU citizens and others, views discrimination on grounds of earnings as more laudable.
There will indeed be labour shortages arising from the imposition of this policy, in hospitality, agriculture, social care and other sectors. This will cause some economic pain. The Brexit myth that there are millions of hard working Brits waiting to re-enter the Labour market once no longer undercut by rampaging Romanians, will be exposed for the nonsense that it is. So is the idea that care homes will start paying £18 an hour to attract staff as a result of Brexit.
The paper states that there will be a power to add further “shortage occupations”, a job offer in which will give qualifying points, and I strongly suspect that will be quickly and quietly used rather than permit sectors to collapse. The power of adding shortage occupations is left by the paper with the Migration Advisory Committee, rather than with mad Priti Patel, which I am told she is not too pleased about but gives some hope the economy will not be ruined for the sake of xenophobia. But the extraordinarily high cost of immigration applications is also going to be a severe barrier to finding alternative staffing flows to EU free movement for low paid work. Upfront Home Office application charges – most of which goes to those private agencies doing the call centre type visa processing – of some £1500 will of course be an entirely new obstacle to those from the EU, and a substantial problem. So is the probable new requirement for medical insurance for EU citizens working here.
So the new policy will create at least temporary staffing shortages in some key economic sectors, will substantially diminish the rights of EU citizens, and will in my firm estimation lead overall to an increase in net immigration. I earlier referred to the second most interesting point being that the new policy did nothing to block pre-existing routes to non-EU immigration. The most interesting point of all is that it is a disaster for the rights of British citizens. British citizens lose the right to move freely around Europe, to work, settle and lead their lives over the vast majority of that great continent. It is an appalling restriction on the opportunities of all of us, especially of the young.
This great freedom has been thrown away to promote the views of racists. Those racists are so incompetent that at the same time as shredding British citizens’ right to migrate freely to the EU, they are inadvertently opening the doors to a new net increase in immigration into the UK largely from outwith the EU. This level of hapless blundering is a further marker in the extraordinary deterioration of the UK state as functioning entity.
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