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Conservative Party immigration policy

Conservative Party immigration policy

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Conservative Party immigration policy

The General Election is happening very soon, and the political parties have published their election manifestos. Of particular interest to us is the Conservative Party manifesto, because the Conservatives are the only party likely to win, and of course of most particular interest to us is their proposed immigration policy.

As we have already revealed (see our immigration blog 22 May), the Conservatives have said that they have no immediate plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.

But what about the mainstream immigration categories? In its manifesto the Conservative Party says, near the beginning and very firmly, that “We will reduce and control immigration.” But the Conservatives have been saying this for years, without any associated success. It has been the Conservatives’ “I have a dream” syndrome for ages. But, as they go on to explain elsewhere, “when immigration is too fast and too high, it is difficult to build a cohesive society.”

They go on to say that “we must … address the immediate needs of those sectors of the economy suffering shortages in skills. We will make the immigration system work for these sectors, whilst ensuring that we develop the skills we need for the future”.

Well, they’ve been saying this for quite a while now. Anyway, more specifically, they envisage that they will “set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration as a whole”.

However, before British industry gets too excited about this, they must note that “However, skilled immigration should not be a way for government or business to avoid their obligations to improve the skills of the British workforce. So we will double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK.” (This is a doubling of the current charge.)

And not only that, but “And we will increase the Immigration Health Surcharge, to £600 for migrant workers”. (This apparently means £600 per year which, if correct, is a trebling of the current level.)

The Immigration Health Surcharge of course affects migrants of all sorts, including family migrants, and this is not the only bad news for spouse/partner visa applicants: “We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas”. (Some people thought that it was already too high being, as it is, well above the national minimum wage.)

Anyway, regarding the burning issue of Brexit, it says:

“Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs”, but this is slightly modified or mollified by the hope or aspiration that the next Conservative Government will “secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU.

And in case you were wondering whether the manifesto includes the famous pledge to reduce net annual migration to the tens of thousands, yes it does: “It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades”. As they put it (with our emphasis): “We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union”. (We’re not quite sure how to take this. As far as we know net migration has been going up and up since we had a Conservative Prime Minister. We must assume that the word “continue” is being used here in a way which is different from the way other people use it.)

So there we have it. To a very significant extent the Conservatives are going to try and price migrants out of the market.

We must let Mr Jamie Whyte, Director of Research at the Institute of Economic Affairs, have the last word on this – for the moment anyway. In a little masterpiece of rhetoric (with surely a small admixture of humour) he said:

“Making employers pay a £2,000 tax when they employ an immigrant means they will often favour less productive British-born workers. That’s the point of the policy, of course. But if Theresa May thinks that subsidising incompetence in native Brits is the path to prosperity, she is badly deluded.”

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