A new UK immigration policy to work for all
There are some terrific new ideas coming out of the Brexit camp on immigration. The vast majority of people support immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. We should be filled with enthusiasm about a new, fair, and sane immigration agenda for Britain
After all the name-calling, debates and mudslinging, eventually Brexit will be delivered, despite what some fully paid-up members of the establishment think.
On June 23, the people of the UK voted for control -- by a majority of over 1 million. Control over their laws, control over government spending, and control over their borders.
All three of these pledges must be delivered if Prime Minister Theresa May wants “Brexit to mean Brexit”, as she says she does. The immigration pledge in particular was one which raised passions on both sides. David Goodhart, writing for Policy Exchange, has written a useful document this month, which will be analysed in this piece on how Brexit can deliver control over our borders.
Goodhart argues that if this pledge regarding migration is not delivered upon, a narrative about the establishment dismissing the concerns of the people could take hold. This could lead us down a path in which the destination is unimaginable.
However, we are at a critical juncture, where we are able to create an immigration policy which does deliver on the promises made, while allowing business and society to flourish.
There are many practical suggestions in Goodhart’s report. He suggests a work permit system to replace the EU’s rules on freedom of movement of people. This would require the UK to leave the European Economic Area (the single market) and instead pursue a free trade deal.
Free movement of people is not necessary for trade -- in fact the entire point of free trade is for people from other countries to buy and sell goods and services. If those people move to your country, it could, in a certain sense, be said to defeat the entire objective.
Some services may require the free movement of people, but certainly not at the current rate and where necessary it could be accommodated by the work permit system. We would also expect these numbers to decrease with the creation of new technologies such as Skype, making travel unnecessary to conduct business in the modern age.
We must also think not only of the UK, but of the countries people are moving from. When large numbers of people leave, it causes brain drains of the cream of the crop moving to different countries for higher wages. This deprives poorer countries of individuals on which time and money has been spent developing expertise, only to lose their benefit once they are qualified.
It also deprives them of hard-working people and huge numbers of their working-age population. This results in negative economic as well as social problems.
Some have suggested the Brexit vote was simply about immigration and the benefits paid to them, therefore another deal about ‘emergency brakes’ for benefits would be sufficient. It was not, and it will not be. The ‘emergency brake’ was trivial when it was first suggested, and it is laughable now.
Goodhart suggests the UK should revert to treating EU citizens who do not have citizenship or residency in the UK in the same way as non-EU citizens are currently treated. They, of course, are subject to a work permit system.
However, this would only be possible once the UK has formally left the EU. This system is an employer-sponsorship points-based system, and as a result virtually all non-EU migrants are skilled. Flexibility is built in with the ability to vary the number of points allocated, depending on the need in the country at the time.
According to Goodhart, if the current non-EU rules were applied to EU citizens currently working in the UK, only 15 percent of the 1.6 million EU employees here now would qualify. He also argues these requirements must be phased in over several years to prevent major disruption, and would require an overhaul of the existing work permit system through investment to make it more efficient, preventing huge backlogs of work permit applications.
Goodhart believes this overhaul should be conducted by a new Department of State for Immigration and Integration. Many Whitehall departments are already incredibly large, inflexible and resistant to change, and this new department could give this important issue the attention it deserves. Additionally, the department would have a minister devoted to this policy area, rather than a junior whose influence is close to nil.
The implementation of these policies would treat migrants from wherever they come from in exactly the same way. This would be non-discriminatory, rather than the overly generous system for citizens of the EU at the expense of those who do not come from an EU Member State. The current EU system is morally repugnant, and the sooner it is binned the better.
These policies are merely one strand of a two-track approach. The second strand in Goodhart’s opinion would be to increase the employability of British citizens by giving them appropriate training, facilitating the development of new skills. This training could be paid for through a National Insurance levy on new migrants.
Once these policies are implemented there should be less dependence on migrant labour. However, this would only be relevant to skilled labour. In relation to unskilled work -- some of which is too low-paid to entice UK citizens. As a result, unskilled labour is currently imported to fill the gap.
The answer to this is not to increase migration, but increased efficiency of the relevant companies, perhaps through automation. This could be encouraged by giving tax breaks for those investing in machinery, something which would pay the country back in the long term as profits increase, resulting in higher tax revenue.
Goodhart also suggests a Scandinavian-style population register for all residents, allocating each individual with a unique person number. This would allow the authorities to track who comes in and out of the country, for once giving the people of this country reliable statistics and an ability to shift resources to where they are needed.
These types of policy ideas are even more urgent now, with the migration crisis constantly worsening. We have heard reports of 25,000 people arriving in Italy in the month of July alone. This is an increase of 12 percent on last July’s figures, as Italy is becoming the new entry point into Europe, rather than Greece.
The migrant crisis is now in its third year and showing no signs of relenting. The lack of borders within the EU’s Schengen area compounds this problem making apprehension of those who are illegally in the country even more difficult.
Turkey has been destabilised further over recent months, putting the deal to halt migrants at risk. The EU has now been threatened by Turkey to allow visa-free access to Turkish citizens by October, or be prepared to face hundreds of thousands of migrants currently prevented entry due to the current agreement.
It is clear that uncontrolled immigration hurts low wage workers in this country. On August 16, the Resolution Foundation released a report which claimed professions such as electricians and plumbers are among those whose wages are on average 2.1 percent lower due to mass immigration.
This equates to £436.80 a year, because of the numbers and the undercutting of wages. The report however attempted to claim Brexit would make things worse, as the economy would be hit. However, this claim is without substance as there is no proof our economy is weakening.
The vast majority of people support immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. We voted leave and now it is time to take back control of our borders. The people who voted for Brexit are the people who have been ignored by the establishment for years and years, and are the ones most impacted by it.
Surely the establishment cannot ignore the people again. To do so would be a monumental error.
Matthew Ellery is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out
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