Mixed reaction to UK adopting Australia-style, points-based system

ENTRY POINTS: The MAC report has suggested Downing Street introducing a points-based system for skilled workers already with a job offer, when drawing up its post-Brexit immigration plans
ENTRY POINTS: The MAC report has suggested Downing Street introducing a points-based system for skilled workers already with a job offer, when drawing up its post-Brexit immigration plans

THE UK has been advised against adopting an Australia-style, points-based system under post-Brexit immigration plans, days before the country leaves the European Union on Friday (31).

A report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, said a full shift to the points-based system was not recommended. Instead, it suggested using a mixed system.

The MAC report said the government should allow a route for skilled workers who did not have a job offer. Teachers and healthcare workers should also benefit from lower salary thresholds based on national pay scales, its recommendations said. The report also suggested lowering the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to £25,600 a year (from £30,000).

“Our recommendations are likely to reduce future growth of the UK population and economy compared to freedom of movement, by using skill and salary thresholds,” MAC chairman Alan Manning said. “No perfect system exists and there are unavoidable difficult trade-offs.”

However, a Downing Street spokesperson said prime minister Boris Johnson’s government was unlikely to change track on its immigration plans.

The research comes soon after home secretary Priti Patel accused British businesses of being “far too reliant on low-skilled and cheap labour” from the EU. Speaking as she unveiled plans of the new post-Brexit immigration system in the UK, Patel added it was “about time” companies invested more in British workers. She told reporters on Monday (27): “We think
it is about time that businesses started to invest in people across the whole of the United Kingdom, that they join with us and our agenda to level up the skills, the infrastructure, the economic growth across all our regions, promote growth across the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Home secretary Priti Patel has accused British businesses of being too reliant on “low-skilled and cheap labour” from the EU

“That is one of the key opportunities that we have when we leave the EU through the immigration system, the points-based system, that we will be bringing.”

Under prime minister Johnson, the Conservatives have repeatedly pledged an Australian-style system after a large proportion of the Brexit debate concentrated on migration into the country.

Reacting to the MAC report, British Future director Sunder Katwala told Eastern Eye it “illustrated the complexity of designing a points-based system, where so much of the devil will be in the detail. It concedes, for example, that its proposals don’t offer an answer for social care and how care providers recruit the staff that they need.”

The report also said the government needed to think more about how immigration, integration and citizenship policies link up, but Katwala pointed out that the committee had not offered any advice on how to do it. Getting that right would be key to securing public trust in how the government manages immigration to the UK, he said.

According to Marley Morris, from thinktank Institute for Public Policy Research, many people
surveyed in widespread focus groups thought the points-based system seemed fair. Many believed it seemed selective but “didn’t sound too restrictive”. However, Morris noted that the system could be empowering the state over the private sector. “The state has more power because it sets the rules rather than the employer led system,” he told the BBC on Monday (27). “(Currently), who employers recruit is based on their needs rather than the government’s own ambition,”

Lord Rami Ranger CBE has said bringing cheap labour from Europe would “eventually damage the UK economy”

Speaking to Eastern Eye, businessman Lord Rami Ranger CBE warned that bringing cheap labour from Europe would “eventually damage the UK economy”. The peer, who is the founder of international marketing and distribution company Sun Mark, said such practices were not sustainable in the long term. Instead, he said it was “paramount” that people were trained through the government’s flagship apprenticeship programme.

“This will allow skill development at all levels and also provide opportunities for employers to train their staff as per their requirements,” he said. “The apprenticeship scheme allows UK nationals the opportunity to train and earn at the same time. There will be no voters’ concern
as the migrants will be coming to gainful employment and paying taxes which supports the
economy and country.”

Asian businessman Koolesh Shah is the founder and owner of hospitality group London Town
Group. Stressing that many of his employees were migrants, he said changes to immigration policies would mean many of those roles could not be filled. “We struggle to find sufficient
British workers, and with the changing demographics and low unemployment, we are facing a
real danger of chronic skills shortages,” Shah told Eastern Eye. “An initiative based solely on high skills and high wages will not be beneficial for the hospitality industry where we already have huge labour shortages.”

Businessman Koolesh Shah has warned that the hospitality sector may face a “real danger of chronic skills shortages” due to changes in immigration policies

The industry was heavily dependent on low-skilled workers, Shah said, adding that the sector
currently employs over three million people.

Although he supported the home secretary’s comments on “supporting the brightest and
best” talent, Shah said he was concerned by the “increased bureaucracy” for job applicants.

“(We) strongly believe that there needs to be a transition period to give time for businesses to adapt,” he said.

Elsewhere, the government unveiled what it termed as an “unlimited” fast-track visa offer on Monday to attract top scientists, researchers and mathematicians from across the world, including from India. The bespoke “Global Talent” route, set to kick in from next month, will have no cap on the number of people able to come to the UK from around the world. It will provide an accelerated path to settlement for all scientists and researchers who are endorsed on the route.
(With agencies)