The Conservatives’ proposals to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system have been much pored over in recent months.
The proposals intend for applicants to be awarded points in relation to attributes such as language proficiency, work experience and academic attainment, and are considered by many to be the future of UK immigration.
Yet the Prime Minister is now intending for the new system to be operational by the end of this year- two years earlier than was outlined in Theresa May’s 2018 white paper on immigration.
By focusing on the applicants’ attributes, the government are prioritising the recruitment of highly-skilled workers. This, it is hoped, will give us the power to bring the world’s ‘best minds’ to the UK. In addition, the Australian-style system will enable the numbers of unskilled workers immigrating into the UK to be reduced. The reduction of net migration was a dominant theme in both the General Election and the EU referendum- much of the public are in support of such a move.
But the proposals do not demonstrate any awareness of the UK’s economic reliance on workers from overseas. Industries such as healthcare, farming and tourism depend upon being able to recruit foreign workers in order to fill labour shortages and function effectively. A considerable amount of non-British staff employed in these sectors would not accumulate the amount of points needed to qualify through the new system.
It is for this reason that the announcement has been met with widespread condemnation. The Confederation of British Industries have stated from the outset that businesses will need at least two years to prepare for such wholesale changes. With this in mind, moving the date forward so dramatically and with next to no prior warning will wreak considerable economic havoc.
Theresa May’s 2018 white paper allowed a ‘time-limited route for temporary short-term workers’, in order to minimise the difficulties that the new immigration rules would cause for employers. Under May’s proposals, the Australian-style system would not be effective until 2023. This would give businesses an adequate amount of time to prepare, in line with the CBI’s recommendations.
The temporary extension of current rules until 2023 was agreed by the previous Prime Minister after pressure from business groups. Taking this into account, Boris Johnson’s abrupt and uncompromising repudiation of the arrangement can be seen as a demonstration of contempt towards employers all over the country who rely on workers from overseas.
With this in mind, moving the date forward so dramatically and with next to no prior warning will wreak considerable economic havoc.
It is particularly ironic when one considers that both the immigration changes and Brexit as a whole have been linguistically packaged as the tonic for the UK’s economic woes. The Conservative government have argued that moving the changes forward will enable the ‘uncontrolled migration of low-skilled workers’ to be halted by the end of the year.
A number 10 source told The Independent:
‘There is a clear drive for talented and skilled workers from around the world to come to the UK, but we also need to see a reduction in the number of unskilled workers and those without a job entering the UK and that’s why this will be coming to an end when the transition period ends in December.’
In contrast, Christine Jardine of the Liberal Democrats has stated that:
‘It’s a national embarrassment. For business and our economy, such draconian changes to immigration rules is utterly unworkable. To think the Home Office could implement the changes in the time given is a joke’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to make the case for the new system being introduced by the end of the year at the next cabinet meeting.
‘It’s a national embarrassment. For business and our economy, such draconian changes to immigration rules is utterly unworkable.’