by Samira Salwan
As the shadow of Brexit looms over Britain, the citizens of the United Kingdom are inching closer to receiving the immigration reforms they have so desired. Immigration has been a core issue at the heart of British politics for a number of years. A 2016 Ipsos survey revealed that immigration was the most important issue for the British electorate. Ardent supporters of the Leave campaign have often cited fears of the revered National Health Service being overburdened by EU immigrants and declining wages for low-income workers as reasons EU migration must be restricted. The fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric projected by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nigel Farage is often attributed as a key influence on Brexit voters. In the months leading up to the Brexit vote, the UK Independence Party rallied strong support for Eurosceptic policies by instilling a sense of fear of EU migrants into the British public. These issues have been hotly contested by the Remain campaign. In an attempt to rebuke the anti-EU migrant sentiment, the campaign posits that European Union migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in welfare benefits. The International Monetary Fund has even found that a 1% increase in the foreign-born population increases GDP per capita by 2%, which totals to a 30% increase in Britain’s GDP. In regard to the overburdening of the NHS, it has been found that ⅓ of medical professionals are foreign-born. Clearly, immigration has played a large role in determining the outcome of the Brexit referendum, and in a post-Brexit Britain immigration reform is of paramount importance. As such, the Conservative party’s suggested immigration policies have allayed the concerns of many British citizens. The new immigration system, which will be implemented starting from 2021, is a points-based system. Migrants are expected to meet a set of requirements, each of which is assigned a point value until they have reached the required number of points. These requirements most notably include being able to speak English, having a job offer from an approved employer, and having an adequate education.
In the past, only non-EU citizens were subject to Britain’s immigration restrictions. European Union membership requires that member states have open borders for EU residents and thus EU residents could move to Britain without restrictions pre-Brexit.
This new immigration system imposes these restrictions on all immigrants, whether they are from an EU nation or not. The new immigration policy is far less stringent for non-EU citizens in terms of lower salary and education requirements but is significantly stricter for EU citizens. The impacts of the new policy vary greatly depending on the sector in question. The technology and finance industries will benefit the most from Britain’s new immigration policy.
Julian Davic, Chief Executive of TechUK, stated that the proposed immigration system will allow Britain to become more “open and attractive” to international innovators and investors. These sectors heavily rely on a foreign (non-EU) labor force and comparatively lowered entry requirements. On the other hand, these policies may stifle progress and adversely impact small enterprises that generally depend upon inexpensive labor coming from Poland and Romania. These employees often do not get paid more than the £25,600 minimum salary or have A-level equivalents as stipulated in new immigration laws. The social care sector causes the most concern for government officials. This sector is already experiencing shortages, and, in the midst of Britain’s rapid age growth, vacancies are already struggling to be filled. The proposed immigration plan also may not make the desired impact on low-income Britons’ employment prospects. While wages are expected to increase, it is projected that jobs will not open up. This is primarily because industries will struggle to maintain a higher wage standard and will employ fewer people as a result.
As a whole, the United Kingdom’s economy is projected to shrink. but its GDP per capita will not be impacted (some even expect it to rise). So, despite potentially losing international regard, Britain’s politicians can see this as an opportunity to increase an average British citizen’s income. The United Kingdom’s new immigration system is a topic of intense debate. Some view these policies as inhumane and racist; others believe that they greatly benefit British citizens. Only time will tell if Eurosceptics will achieve their desired result.