And so the government prepares to kick-off the most far reaching anti-immigration agenda seen in generations. It will be popular with many, but to others, Mrs May has just announced a new horror show coming to Britain, and there is one thing about pulling up a drawbridge that gets forgotten.
It was as if they were given free rein. In her speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May said that people in the UK “were not prepared to be ignored anymore. . .in June people voted for change. And a change is going to come.” Other politicians basked in the rhetoric.
She overlooks a few minor, ever so minor, points.
48% of the voters did not vote for change.
Mrs May seems determined to remove the moniker ‘nasty party’ from the Tories, but in the process she risks turning her country into the ‘nasty country’.
And when you pull drawbridges up, it may create a sense of security for those inside, but never forget it makes it much harder for people inside to leave too. Yet, when you make it harder for people to leave, they are all the more likely to take the radical step of leaving for good. By creating little Britain, Mrs May risks creating exodus Britain, as those who look on with astonishment at the latest wave of xenophobia, start to draw up plans that may collectively create a new brain drain.
Brexit does not have to be like this. Rather than talk about Brexit light or hard, May should talk about open or closed Brexit. Open Brexit means a UK freed from the shackles of the EU, that can reach out across the globe, as an open country, a beacon of tolerance in a globalised era, a kind of European Singapore but run by a fully working democracy, or it can choose closed Brexit, pull up the drawbridge, keep foreigners out, Brits in, except of course for those who sneak out the back at night, a pursuit which may become ever more popular.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd wants to restrict the inflow of students to what she calls the UK’s poorer universities. But what are these poorer quality universities? Does she refer to institutions that are not Oxford, Cambridge or one of the elite Russel Group of universities.
Paul Blomfield, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international students said: "She doesn’t seem to know how many universities we have in the UK or understand the current rules for which she is responsible, let alone appreciate the enormous contribution international students make to the universities and cities where they study. International students bring £8bn a year to the UK economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the economy. Education is one of our most successful export industries. The only people cheering today’s announcement will be our competitors.”
Mrs Rudd also mooted the idea of employers being forced to cite how many foreign workers they have in their work-force, and said she wants to see more British doctors in the NHS. Now that is a good idea, there is after-all such high unemployment amongst British doctors and nurses – it’s a phenomenon we see every day we go past the Job Centre, as a long queue of men and women in white coats holding stethoscopes forms; these sad, highly qualified individuals find they are unable to find work, thanks to immigrant doctors.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, said that immigrants who “consume” Britain’s wealth are not welcome.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “Conservative party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures. Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain. Shutting the door to international students won’t pay young people’s tuition fee debts, and ditching doctors from abroad won’t cut NHS waiting lists.”
Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said: “This reactionary call to restrict access to global talent goes against everything we are doing to build a global tech hub that rivals Silicon Valley. One out of every three UK tech employees was born overseas, and their hard work and commitment has played an essential role in making London the capital of European tech.”