There is a serious risk of numbers taking off again, unless ministers get a grip

December 31, 2019

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have both suggested that lower-skilled migration will fall under an Australian style system.

And just days before the general election the Prime Minister undertook to get immigration down.

A new study (MW470 - The Prime Minister’s pledge on immigration after Brexit) by Migration Watch UK shows that it will take all his determination and commitment to achieve this outcome.

Major decisions on immigration are now imminent and the government are already coming under strong pressure from the many groups that have been profiting from the massive levels of immigration that Labour let loose and the Conservatives have, so far, failed three times to reduce.

The risk, as our study shows, is that an ill-thought out immigration system, points-based or not, will scupper the government’s pledge to take control of, and reduce, immigration after Brexit, were it to cave in to demands that work permits should be widened to include semi-skilled workers from all over the world and to continuing large inflows from the EU.

Such changes would expose between six and nine million UK jobs to new or increased global competition.

Unless the government exercises great caution, especially in the early stages, numbers could well rise sharply. This would be the very opposite of what most people want to happen – notably in marginal constituencies, where 64% see the level of immigration as a major public concern (Deltapoll, November 2019).

While the end of free movement could mean a fall in the number of EU workers taking up lower-skilled jobs, a consequence of the extension of skilled work permits would be to counter the effect through: the expansion of the youth mobility scheme to EU countries; abuse and a failure of enforcement linked to the introduction of a ‘temporary’ route for workers at all skill levels.

Any constraining measures on immigration would be further weakened by a loosening of visa arrangements for non-EU workers such as: the abolition of the cap on work permits, abandoning the skills threshold for work permits (from graduate level to A-Level) and the reduction of the salary threshold from £30,000 – possibly to as low as £21,000, as well as the inclusion of greater access for workers as part of future trade agreements.

Migration Watch UK is calling for:

  • an Australian style annual cap on the number of skilled visas - a policy supported by 71% of the public.
  • maintaining the current skill and salary requirements for skilled work permits.
  • suspension of specific schemes to bring in low-skilled workers except for Seasonal Agricultural Workers recently increased to 10,000 per year.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

The electorate, including those who don’t usually vote Conservative, will expect Boris Johnson to keep his word on reducing immigration but an Australian points-based system is not in itself the magic wand that will do it.

The wand has to be waved in a way suited to UK needs if immigration numbers are not to spin out of control again. Should they fail to deliver yet again, the Conservatives’ credibility will be shot with the public and it won’t be just to their new supporters that they could be saying goodbye.

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