Politicians are scared – they are putting into place policies that make no sense, but they are doing it because they are terrified of an electorate that has been subjected to decades of intolerant, xenophobic diatribe. But that may not be the biggest issue haunting the UK. Yesterday saw the leaking of a Home Office document which lays out a policy towards immigration. One thing is clear, if you are a British citizen with ambition or curiosity about the world, then you are not really the kind of person the government wants.
The document states: “Put plainly, this means that, to be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but also make existing residents better off.”
You might ask, what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t the government put UK citizens first? It is just that there is a world of difference between those words and the reality. And perception matters.
The Home Office document calls for measures to radically reduce the number of unskilled migrants from the EU coming into the UK, and if they do come here, they can only stay for two years.
But then what do we mean by unskilled? And is such a move really in the interests of the British people?
The list of flaws in the idea is longer than the queue of passengers at the departures gate of UK airports.
For example, the evidence to suggest that the migration of EU citizens to the UK does, in any way, adversely affect UK workers is virtually non-existent. And when there is evidence, it shows that in some respects the most poorly paid of UK workers are very slightly adversely affected – at least their wages might be marginally lower as a result. But take into account the taxation that migration brings to the UK, and such disadvantages are soon whittled away.
But the cold hard fact is that UK unemployment sits at a 42-year low. How can migration possibly be adversely affecting the UK labour market?
The report also says “We are clear that, wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour.”
Yet, evidence suggests that UK employers already do everything possible to hire UK workers, but they can only hire the people who are available, or capable.
As Dr Heather Rolfe from the National Institute of Economics and Social Research said: "Research found that the most common reason for employing EU migrants is difficulty recruiting British workers – cited by 35 per cent of employers in low-skilled sectors – while only one in 14 say they hire EU workers because they have lower expectations of pay and conditions than British workers.
“Employers consistently say they would prefer to recruit more British workers, especially young people, but fail to attract them. I spoke to an employer only this morning who recently recruited 26 British workers to a food processing plant in Norfolk: after two weeks they had all left, saying they didn’t like the work.”
UK teenagers, argues Dr Rolfe, “aspire to work in education, arts and entertainment, IT and communications, not in hotels, factories and care homes.”
So why enact such short-sighted policy?
Yesterday, Vince Cable was questioned on this. He said: “When I was Business Secretary there were up to nine studies that we looked at that took in all the academic evidence. They showed that immigration had little impact on wages and employment, but this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient.
“I remember it vividly. Overwhelmingly it has been the case that overseas workers have been complimentary rather than competitive to British Workers. The exodus of trades people, NHS staff and tech workers shows the potential damage of extreme Brexit.”
But the UK government is hell bent on sending out the message that we ‘don’t want you’, that ‘you are not welcome’. If, within a few years, the NHS is not sent into a crisis that may spell its demise, it will be a big surprise – maybe that is what the more extreme Brexit camp want, after-all John Major once said that some Brexiteers are anti the NHS.”
There is an even wider point than that. This sentence from the Guardian illustrates the point, it said that the Home Office document may enrage many of the top people in the EU and “could invite retaliatory action by the 27-country bloc.”
Does the government care about that? Frankly, we can ask, do the people who are so anti-immigration care about that?
It seems that in the Britain of 2017 there is one type of British citizen we could do without, and that is the type who is ambitious, who thinks that one day he or she might quite live to live or work on mainland Europe, if only for a while. If you are ambitious, have a global perspective, are curious about the world, and try to embrace multiculturalism you are not the kind of person we need – we didn’t rescue our poor brave soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 or withstand the perils of the Blitz to provide people like you with a future, oh no, ambition is not welcome here.