Rudd’s hard-soft line on immigration

by Bill Emmott | 27.07.2017

Nigel Farage must be feeling vindicated. Only a day after he wrote in the Telegraph warning that “The Great Brexit Betrayal has Begun”, up pops Amber Rudd writing in the FT saying she wants a “Post-Brexit immigration system that works for all”, by which “all” she implied she meant businesses keen on continuing to recruit workers from the EU.

Farage’s article was typically mendacious: among other things, he claimed, using  an incorrectly drawn chart, that “EU net migration is now higher than that from the rest of the world”. Unless he has had advance notice of more recent figures, those from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2016 net migration from the rest of the EU totaled 133,000 people while net migration from outside the EU was 175,000.

But his further statement, that “the Brexit-voting public is not in denial over immigration”, fits better with Rudd’s line. Farage thinks the public wants “a total stop” to immigration; Rudd thinks “the public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration – in terms of type and volume —  from within the EU”.

Both ought to pay more attention to what the public actually thinks. A Yougov poll in The Economist shows a majority in favour of a soft Brexit rather than a hard one.  An IPSOS-Mori poll this week showed a majority in favour of immigration controls, but with a clear shift since the referendum towards prioritizing the single market.

Against that background, and the shuffle of the May cabinet towards accepting transition periods after Brexit, Amber Rudd has decided not to act. The home secretary apparently considers that all the countless studies of the benefits and costs of immigration for the UK so far have been woefully inadequate, so she is commissioning yet another by the Migration Advisory Committee, which her Home Office says will publish its report in September 2018, seven months ahead of the expiry of the Article 50 process.

Anyone considering that this might be too little time to fashion a proper post-Brexit immigration system ahead of March 2019 can presumably go whistle. After all, she says that employers can expect up to three years of transition after Brexit during which they can adjust their recruitment practices.

But to what? Rudd says she wants to ensure that “the brightest and best” migrants will still be able to be recruited to Britain after Brexit. So a fair template for what might replace free movement must be the Home Office’s existing system for work permits for non-EU citizens, which benefits from regular reports from that same Migration Advisory Committee.

Take a look at the government’s guide to how to get work visas. For the very “brightest and best” there is a wonderful “exceptional talent” visa to apply for. Snag: only 1,000 are issued each year. Each applicant must first get a Home Office “endorsement” of their talents, which costs £292. Then the visa itself costs a further £292 and one for any dependants costs £585. Oh, and every applicant must pay the “healthcare surcharge” of £200 per year.

Alternatively, there is the Tier 2 visa for those deemed to have been offered a “skilled job” by a “licensed sponsor”. The guidance booklet for companies wishing to be a licensed sponsor extends to a wondrous 205 pages. In return for asking to import workers under this visa the employer has to pay an “Immigration Skills Charge” of £1,000 per person per year.

Lucky applicants pay fees of £587 for a visa of up to three years, or £1,174 for one of more than three years, and the same again for each and every dependant. The fee for whatever the Migration Advisory Committee deems a “shortage occupation” comes at a princely discount, a mere £446.

Even intra-company transfers, for example by Japanese firms investing in Britain, are subject to these charges and procedures. One Japanese company in London has to employ two people full time just to handle visa and work permit issues for such transfers.

One can readily see from Rudd’s article where this is heading. She says she wants the Committee to examine “how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy”.

There will be a strategy, alongside which will be a labour plan. There will be audits of skills. Estimates will be produced of what skills cannot be obtained in the UK. Note: not who are the best people for the jobs, but rather where “skills” are required. Then a quota of permits will be produced.

The British government won’t just need to recruit trade experts from New Zealand. It will need former officials of the Soviet Union’s Gosplan. Happily, many have been out of a job since 1991.

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    Edited by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

    3 Responses to “Rudd’s hard-soft line on immigration”

    • What an incredible and awful prospect apparently awaits the UK in a post Brexit world. Civil servants deciding on the recruitment and practices of companies assessing needs qualifications of candidates etc. It will simply not work. One of the many disasters so far of the referendum vote has been to introduce two classes of citizen in the UK, UK nationals and the rest.Does the government not realize how insulting it is for EU nationals in particular to be welcomed ( or tolerated ? ) only if they correspond to some employment criteria laid down by the bureaucracy? No wonder EU nationals will think twice about coming to the UK.
      The whole situation is unbelievable and smacks indeed of the practices of now defunct communist governments. How can any political party in the UK envisage such a policy? Above all, the conspiracy of silence continues with respect to the Freedom of Movement Directive and its non application by successive UK governments. The Directive has built in safeguards against the abuse of the system which if applied would have eliminated the so called EU migration problems; the UK already had under the Directive the controls its borders.

    • Still the hate-filled rabble rousing rhetoric from Farage, (is it any wonder his German born wife has left him) and just a lot of muddled and contradictory thinking and even more muddled, not to say extremely unpleasant, actions from the Government. The country is in danger of becoming a nasty, vindictive fascist state.

    • I know that if I was one of “the brightest and best” EU talents and had the choice of going to work in a European country offering unbureaucratic access such as Holland, Austria or Sweden and another requesting that I jump through all kinds of bureaucratic hoops for a limited year visa, for which I would have to pay several hundred pounds for the privelege, I know which option I would choose.

      Aside from that, is there not more to culture and society than being the “brightest and best”? Is this another way of wanting to appeal to an elite? I thought the Brexit case was supposed to be against catering for elites.