London Mayor Sadiq Khan is warning new Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a new, post-Brexit immigration policy could have severe repercussions for certain industries in the U.K. In a speech to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, Khan stated that a new policy requiring that immigrants must earn at least £30,000 to qualify for a “skilled worker” visa would be detrimental to the country and possibly result in labor shortages.
Telling the House of Commons that the U.K. must “continue to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world,” Johnson is suggesting an “Australia style” points-based system for visas and skilled workers from overseas. As a first step, he is asking the Migration Advisory Committee to review Australia’s immigrations system.
Khan pointed to a City Hall analysis that several sectors including the construction, social care, and hospitality industries would face a severe worker shortage if the new immigration plan were implemented.
“If the government’s proposed immigration changes go ahead, then I’m fearful of the impact they’ll have on the fabric of our city,” Khan said. “The impact on the construction sector would make the housing crisis worse. And the impact on public services, including our schools and the NHS [National Health Service], could have devastating consequences for years to come.”
The study Khan referred to was done by the Greater London Authority (GLA); it claimed that the proposed immigration changes would cause employers to struggle to fill jobs that currently account for about half of all the jobs in London. Khan proposes lowering the earning threshold to £21,000 so that jobs considered “low-skilled” such as nursery workers and janitorial positions would not go unfilled as workers from EU countries move out of the U.K.
Mayor Khan, it seems, is still fighting the Brexit battle. “The new prime minister should instead fully recognize the positive impact immigration and freedom of movement has had in London and the UK and immediately take steps to reform the immigration system in a way that enables us to unlock the potential of Londoners.”
Khan is also requesting that he and London be allowed to create, in essence, their own immigration system independent of the rest of the nation. Khan is looking to create a London-centered database listing sectors where more workers are needed. Additionally, he is demanding that the city be granted the power to “fast-track” visa applications in those sectors.
Yeah, there wouldn’t be any possibility of immigration abuse with that type of system.
On the other hand, some business leaders are lauding Johnson’s new approach to immigration, which they believe will help meet needs in their industries, rather than having the strict immigration quotas that are currently in place.
“Scrapping the net migration target is hugely welcome and sends a decisive signal to the world that the UK is open for business,” said Matthew Fell, the chief policy director for the British business organization CBI. “A focus on need, not numbers will ensure the UK can access vital skills and labor to grow the economy. Business looks forward to working with the government to design a new immigration system that commands public confidence.”
Johnson seems to be straddling a fence on the immigration issue. The new proposal could actually result in higher numbers of total immigrants, while making the qualifications for those immigrants a little more strict.
“A points-based system doesn’t mean much in itself,” said Marley Morris, a director of immigration at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a leftist think tank. “It could be very restrictive; it could be liberal. It appeals to people who are concerned about migration, but it has a liberal ring to it, which is probably the message Boris Johnson wants to communicate.”
One troubling aspect of Johnson’s immigration stance is that he appears to favor amnesty for illegal immigrants. Johnson was intrigued by the idea when it was brought up by Labor MP Rupa Huq in the House of Commons. When he was the mayor of London, Johnson also called for amnesty for illegal immigrants.
In a speech to the House of Commons, Johnson also said that the three million-plus EU citizens currently living in the U.K. would have “the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain,” in the U.K. after Brexit.
But on immigration, at least, Khan and Johnson may agree more than they disagree.
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