/At last! This is what we voted for: DAVID GOODHART on Priti Patels post-Brexit immigration system

At last! This is what we voted for: DAVID GOODHART on Priti Patels post-Brexit immigration system

The post-Brexit shake-up to Britain’s immigration system, unveiled today by Priti Patel, should be welcomed on the grounds of politics, economics – and general fairness.

I would go further. This new, points-based labour migration policy represents the re-establishment of a national social contract with the British workforce – a contract that was ripped up when we adopted an open-door policy to EU migrants.

The Government’s new system is much fairer because it works on merit, not nationality. We will no longer be forced to discriminate against a migrant from, say, New Zealand, over a Slovenian who enjoys an unambiguous right to come here.

The new approach is democratically appropriate, too. It was for this sort of policy that many voted in the Brexit referendum of 2016, a sentiment that also may have swept Boris Johnson to his landslide election victory.

The post-Brexit shake-up to Britain’s immigration system, unveiled today by Priti Patel, should be welcomed on the grounds of politics, economics – and general fairness

The post-Brexit shake-up to Britain’s immigration system, unveiled today by Priti Patel, should be welcomed on the grounds of politics, economics – and general fairness

The post-Brexit shake-up to Britain’s immigration system, unveiled today by Priti Patel, should be welcomed on the grounds of politics, economics – and general fairness

After three years of parliamentary dithering, British voters now understand that the Government actually responds to popular instruction. We may therefore avoid the alarming spikes in support for the far-Right parties that are currently flourishing in many parts of the EU.

Quite simply, the current immigration system has not been working – either for the country or the workforce. With only a few honourable exceptions, Britain’s large employers have got away with murder over two decades.

With a huge pool of cheap EU labour now denied them, many will have to invest a bit more, train workers a bit more and even pay them a bit more.

And what’s wrong with that?

Spending on workforce-training in Britain has fallen by 20 per cent since 2004, when we opened the doors to mass migration from the EU.

For almost two decades, the UK’s employers have reflexively turned to well-trained and generally reliable Eastern European labour, avoiding the bother of training and inspiring British youngsters, many of whom – it has to be said – are more disposed to stay in bed than their European counterparts.

The new approach is democratically appropriate, too. It was for this sort of policy that many voted in the Brexit referendum of 2016, a sentiment that also may have swept Boris Johnson to his landslide election victory

The new approach is democratically appropriate, too. It was for this sort of policy that many voted in the Brexit referendum of 2016, a sentiment that also may have swept Boris Johnson to his landslide election victory

The new approach is democratically appropriate, too. It was for this sort of policy that many voted in the Brexit referendum of 2016, a sentiment that also may have swept Boris Johnson to his landslide election victory

Not only are big companies guilty of this – the professional middle classes have followed suit, employing Czechs and Poles as nannies and builders rather than selecting candidates from closer to home.

There is nothing disgraceful in doing so, of course. But it has come at a high price. Large employers have avoided investing in expensive technologies while a seemingly limitless pool of cheap EU labour has kept the economic show on the road.

This is one reason why Britain’s productivity levels are so dismally low, and falling further. Countries with lower productivity than their competitors are doomed to become ever poorer.

It is true that – as Government ministers rarely tire of saying – Britain enjoys effective full employment. But this rosy picture conceals problems, particularly at the low-skilled and younger end of the workforce.

Our youth unemployment level is 11.7 per cent, lower than in Spain and in Italy, but higher than in Germany, which has a stellar record of bringing the young into the workforce with outstanding apprentice schemes.

In the 16-to-24 age group in the UK, there are 800,000 so-called ‘Neets’, young people who are not in any form of education, employment or training – a truly sobering figure.

At that level, a range of workers in different industries will be able to come to Britain, provided they can earn further points for speaking English and have a job offer from a reputable employer

At that level, a range of workers in different industries will be able to come to Britain, provided they can earn further points for speaking English and have a job offer from a reputable employer

At that level, a range of workers in different industries will be able to come to Britain, provided they can earn further points for speaking English and have a job offer from a reputable employer

If Mr Johnson is to re-establish this crucial social contract with the labour force, he must speedily address this issue, offering incentives to British workers and employers.

Even though the EU’s share of Britain’s total workforce is a relatively modest 7 per cent nationally, it is fully 17 per cent in London. And the national figures disguise some areas of genuine concern. Certain sectors have become alarmingly dependent on EU labour – a third of workers in food manufacturing and a fifth in the hotel trade.

Little wonder, therefore, that big business has generally been so scathing about any measure to reduce its access to a vast pool of EU labour. Many scare stories have been spread about the potential impact of restricting EU labour, but middle- and higher-skilled workers will still be welcome in a new light-touch regime.

It is the employers of low-skilled foreign labour that will feel the pinch –and so they should.

For all that, it was sensible of the Government to follow advice from the Migration Advisory Committee and reduce the immigration salary threshold for skilled workers from £30,000 to £25,600.

If Mr Johnson is to re-establish this crucial social contract with the labour force, he must speedily address this issue, offering incentives to British workers and employers

If Mr Johnson is to re-establish this crucial social contract with the labour force, he must speedily address this issue, offering incentives to British workers and employers

If Mr Johnson is to re-establish this crucial social contract with the labour force, he must speedily address this issue, offering incentives to British workers and employers

At that level, a range of workers in different industries will be able to come to Britain, provided they can earn further points for speaking English and have a job offer from a reputable employer. Needless to say, it will still be important to keep a sharp eye on labour shortages, and ease the rules if industries begin to suffer.

But some of the objections are alarmist. For instance, only 4 per cent of nurses are from the EU, and the figure is roughly double that in the care services.

These are substantial numbers, of course, but over time such figures can be managed.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has become effectively the party of uncontrolled mass immigration, in defiance of the beliefs of its former core voters.

Opinion polling over many years has shown that most people want proper control of our borders, which is hardly a radical demand.

It is true that immigration has dropped down the list of voters’ priorities, but that is because of a general sense that the Government is preparing to take action to control it, especially since the Brexit referendum.

Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, has already dismissed the Government’s new policy by saying it is a meaningless soundbite and ‘isn’t an Australian points-based system’.

She’s dead wrong in her first point: this is genuine reform, not sloganeering. But Miss Abbott is right in her second point.

This was never intended to be a copy of Australia’s system.

The immigration policy Down Under is predicated on filling a vast, under-populated country.

Britain’s policy, operating in an overcrowded island off the coast of an even more populous continent, is designed specifically to restore the contract with working people, to raise productivity and reduce the shaming number of economically inactive youths here.

By those measures it shall be judged, and my firm belief is that in time it will come to be seen as a great advance.

David Goodhart is Head of Demography at Policy Exchange.

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