11th March 2020
The Home Secretary has announced some of the detail of her proposals for a `points-based` Australian-style immigration system.
There is no doubt in my mind that the result of the EU Referendum in 2016 owed as much to the desire to see immigration controlled, at times little less than rank xenophobia, as to any other factor. The referendum was certainly not fought on the basis of our national security or upon the future of our economy as it ought to have been but that is the fault of those who managed the Remain campaign. Given the result of the referendum it is clear that measures have to be taken to end the `freedom of movement` that lies at the heart of the resentment – and I use the word advisedly – towards those from abroad coming to the United Kingdom and `using our services and taking our homes and our jobs`.
Simply creating a system that is dependent upon allowing what the Home Secretary has described as `the brightest and the best` into the Country, even with a reduced salary requirement of £25,000 per year, is however likely to trigger the law of unintended consequences. Many of the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs in our hospitals and care homes, in our catering and hospitality industries and in agriculture are performed by immigrant labour prepared to work for the statutory minimum wage and to undertake tasks that our own unemployed simply will not do.
No good saying, as one Ministerial answer received last week suggests, that employers should try harder to recruit local labour or, by implication, to pay more. Even if County Councils and private individuals had the funds to pay increased fees, which they do not, people do not want their elderly relatives cared for by the unwilling and uncaring, nor do they want their meals and their drinks served in bars and restaurants or their hotel rooms cleaned and the bedding changed by pressed and recalcitrant labour. And my local farmers have tried – they have really tried – to recruit from the local pool of unemployed. To no effect. Which is why, in the Autumn of 2019 fruit in the orchards of Kent was left rotting on the trees.
So just before we engage in dog-whistle politics that panders to the lowest common denominator let us catch our breath and come up with a policy that will, yes, allow us to maintain control over who comes to these shores but to do so without cutting off the very source of labour that we are going to need as we seek to compete in a global market.