Controlling Immigration after Brexit: Britain First
A document from the Home Office which was leaked to the Guardian, includes detailed proposals about controlling immigration, especially of low-skilled migrants from Europe. The leaked draft suggests that British workers would be the preferred choice in the job market post-Brexit and firms would have to employ locally, unless they can prove that there is a financial need to employ EU citizens.
As the paper stated, “To be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but make existing residents better off.” To paraphrase a line from Trump’s inaugural speech: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only Britain first, Britain first.”
The release of the document comes at a crucial moment where the effects of Brexit are already hurting the UK. Immigration has been the cornerstone of right-wing populist parties in Europe and the US. In America, for example, Trump’s anti-immigration proposals have culminated in yesterday’s cruel termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca). In a statement, Trump explained that his decision was a moral choice to defend hardworking citizens of America: “As I've said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve. We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.”
UK low-skilled workers
UK farmers are complaining about labour shortages, and, in particular, about the diminishing numbers of Eastern European migrant workers for such roles as picking fruit and vegetables. Such low-skilled jobs aren’t preferred by UK nationals, and the farming industry has frequently warned about the significant repercussions and economic damage if migration from the EU is dramatically limited.
According to a new report from the NFU’s Vision for the Future of Farming, the industry has “growing concerns,” and the number of workers coming to the UK’s farms has dropped 17%, while the next two seasons’ outlook is in “jeopardy”. The report called for the creation of a specific immigration policy whereby visas for seasonal labour would enable workers from overseas to come to work in Britain. The president of the NFU Meurig Raymond said: “It is crucial that the government addresses these concerns immediately to ensure that farming has access to a competent and reliable workforce…. A solution, such as a suite of visa or permit schemes is urgently needed to avoid losing a critical number of workers that could jeopardise future harvests and food production."
No more Dreamers
On the other side of the Atlantic, anti-immigration conservative Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday that the 2012 Obama program Dreamers was cancelled. The federal government program Daca was an Obama administration policy whose aim was to protect undocumented immigrants who came in the US as children. The cancellation of the program means that 800,000 of children and young people, who under the program are known as Dreamers, might be deported and lose their right to live, work and study in the US. Daca gave immigrants who went to America as children a two-year period of protection and allowed them to work, without the fear of being deported.
While Trump explained that he has a “great heart”, he still decided to withdraw the program. What will happen in the next six months, is a new legislative solution by Congress that would resolve the status of Dreamers. Because Trump has limited power to reverse the policy, the government won’t take any actions to remove Daca recipients. While new applications would no longer be accepted, the current Dreamers’ papers would start expiring in March 2018 and by 2020 all Dreamers will lose their status. This would eventually mean deportation. While certain anti-immigration Republican state attorneys forced Trump to make this decision, because they feel that Dreamers threaten American life and jobs, other Republican politicians, most Democrats and immigration supporters, were in favour of Daca, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Senator John McCain.
As US Senator Bernie Sanders put it yesterday, “t is no secret that I disagree with Donald Trump on just about everything, but I have to say his decision regarding DACA is the ugliest and most cruel decision ever made by a president of the United States in the modern history of this country.”
Leaked Home Office paper
The leaked document entitled the “Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the EU, was dated August 2017 and is considered sensitive information. The basic tenets of the document consist in limiting the number of unskilled workers from the EU, introducing restrictions on salaries and skills, and on the rights of EU migrants to bring in family members, preventing EU migrants from seeking employment in the UK, and terminating the right of EU migrants to settle in the UK.
A Cabinet minister said that the leaked document was an example of the government’s attempt to honour the referendum results to control immigration. Sir Michael Fallon argued that ending the free movement of people in the UK was necessary, but this meant that the UK wasn’t trying to “close the door” on talented individuals from abroad.
Fallon said: “We have always welcomed to this country those who can make a contribution to our economy, to our society, people with high skills. On the other hand we want British companies to do more to train up British workers, to do more to improve skills of those who leave our colleges. So there's always a balance to be struck. We're not closing the door on all future immigration but it has to be managed properly and people do expect to see the numbers coming down.”
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London criticised the document and said that, “It reads like a blueprint on how to strangle London's economy, which would be devastating not just for our city but for the whole country.”
Taking back control and putting Britain first is Theresa May’s response to the Brexit demands to curb immigration. But, for many migrants, the UK is becoming increasingly unattractive, due to Brexit itself and the falling value of the pound. In addition, European officials might soon react negatively if they feel that the UK is treating EU nationals as second-class citizens. Already, EU journalists are sharpening their poison pens: Le Figaro’s Florentin Collomp said that the consequence of Brexit would be that “Europeans will no longer come to the UK to work. Brits will have to pick their cabbages and wash their elderly themselves.”