There has been much discussion of the Tories’ planned Aussie-style points-based immigration system in this election.
The Conservatives present the issue as a welcome chance to reboot the UK’s border policy once we leave the European Union, and there is much credit to that objective.
Theresa May’s ludicrous “tens of thousands” pledge came with her from the Home Office to Downing Street and made little sense in either; ours is an open economy in which immigration is a vital part of providing our economy with the skills we need.
What concerns, however, is how this points-based system might actually work in practice.
The phrase of this election, when it comes to this thorny topic, is that we would be able to welcome “the best and brightest.” Now, there is much to applaud.
The commitment to allow those foreign students who graduate from our universities to stay for longer and begin their lives here, and ditto for the so-called start-up visa — whatever that may actually entail — are both very welcome indeed.
Making sure high-skilled people can come and stay is a no-brainer. But a brief stroll around the City makes it abundantly clear that whatever system is introduced must also allow for immigration that is not reliant on university degrees or salary thresholds.
Our pubs and restaurants wouldn’t survive without a healthy flow of labour, and agricultural firms are already wondering how they will provide the goods that shoppers want in the aisles if temporary “picking” labour is shut off completely.
Schools and hospitals will assuredly get some sort of free pass to restrictions, but that will not help outsourcing firms.
And whilst some may be transient visitors to the country, many will stay, build their lives here — running the restaurants they started work in, doing night courses that enable them to move up the career ladder.
Elections are elections, and it doesn’t take a cynic to suggest that election pledges do not necessarily turn into policy. But rhetorically appealing though the “best and brightest” phrase is, it may not work in practice — and plenty of industries will feel the pain.
If the Tories do win the election, balancing the needs of the whole economy will be vital to ensuring our businesses have the people they need to grow.
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