If any residue of doubt or naiveté remains that the Brexiters’ main motivation for leaving Europe was to limit immigration, the new points-based immigration system unveiled last month exposes it in its full nakedness. It is generally aimed at limiting immigration into the UK, but especially at stopping the so-called unskilled non-English migrants.
Announcing this immigration policy amounts to formally pronouncing the age of globalised ‘Cool Britannia’ well and truly over. If the 1990s were when the UK matured into a European political, financial, social and cultural hub and a force to reckoned with well beyond Europe, it is now entering an era in which it is turning its back on the world.
The new blueprint for immigration into the UK is a source of concern for both perceptual and practical reasons. Perceptually, there is no es
cape from the obvious conclusion that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is sending a clear message that migrants are no longer welcome, unless they are privileged, educated, or the state of the economy is desperate enough to let them in.
It is an elitist approach to immigration by an elitist government, which while it is turning its back on Europe, regardless of the consequences and out of sheer populism, excludes the low-skilled, which equates to the low-paid, from working in the UK.
If this government has drawn any lesson from the Windrush scandal, it is not that the immmigrants who have helped build the country should be treated humanely and their rights respected, but that they should not have been be allowed into the UK in the first place.
It also defies common sense, though it is not without precedent elsewhere, that the charge against immigration and multiculturalism is being led not only by the most obvious ‘little Englander’ white nemeses of immigration, but mainly by consecutive Conservative Home Secretaries such as Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, whose parents were immigrants.
This despite the fact that they are living proof, not only of successful integration, but of their ability to climb to high office.
It is they whom we might have expected to be more sympathetic to immigrants, whether they be economic migrants or, especially, refugees and asylum seekers. Sadly, Javid, Patel and their like represent those second-generation migrants who are at the forefront of closing the door to those who wish to follow in the successful footsteps of their parents and themselves.
Explanations for this irrational behaviour can only be found in the worlds of psychology and political opportunism.
This new immigration policy has nothing to do with bringing the British back to work. One must also take issue with the term ‘unskilled workers’.
All workers have skills even if these don’t require academic qualifications.
The term has become derogatory and an excuse to exploit and generally treat badly certain segments of the labour market despite their contribution to the economy, as well as a weapon to attack immigration and immigrants.
Furthermore, the new immigration policy has also targeted the self-employed, who will no longer be able to look for work in the UK.
It makes one wonder if Johnson or Patel have ever searched for a plumber, builder or electrician. Had they done so they would have discovered that most of these tradespeople are from EU member states, mainly from Eastern Europe, and even with open borders they have been hard to come by; finding a Briton to fix your central heating or build your extension is already mission impossible.
Closing the borders to the ‘unskilled’ will mean further shortages of such occupations, as well as those in areas such as nursing, agriculture and the service industry.
The government’s response to this is that the situation can be addressed by retraining the 8.5 million people who are classified as ‘economically inactive’. Alas, this is another dose of government make-believe with almost no connection to reality. –AN