The UK announces a new points-based immigration system. Here’s what to expect

By Louis Shankar

Updated May 18, 2020 at 05:47 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

The post-Brexit immigration system has been announced and, to say the least, people are not happy.

A new points-based immigration system will apply equally to everyone coming into the country, where, currently, the EU provides freedom of movement and non-EU countries are already subject to an existing points-based system.

The Home Office describes this as “a firm and fair points-based system that will attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services.” It should be noted that the rules for “family reunion, asylum and border crossing checks are outside of the points-based system,” and will not be changing. The policy statement specifies that the government will “not implement a route for lower-skilled workers.” To put it simply, the Tories want to reduce immigration numbers.

With this new immigration system, higher income jobs are prioritised: a salary of £23,040 to £25,599 counts for 10 points, out of the 70 needed in total, and a salary of above £25,600 counts for twice that. Proficiency in English counts for another 10 points. A PhD relevant to the offered job counts for 10 points, while a STEM PhD counts for 20, in order to encourage academics. Jobs in “shortage occupations” will also count for 20 points; this would include jobs in the health sector, for example, although this list will be flexible, allowing “immediate temporary relief for shortage areas.” It does make sense—or so the Home Office claims.

Who’s going to replace the seasonal labour in the agricultural sector? What about the thousands of EU migrants who work in the “low-skilled” areas of care and sanitation? Tories have pointed out that there are millions of British people who could fill this employment deficit, but, generally, they fail to acknowledge that the vast majority of this group are students, retired, carers or unfit to work. The National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU) has already warned that food prices may rise under these proposed plans. “Failure to provide an entry route for these [seasonal] jobs will severely impact the farming sector,” warned NFU president Minette Batters in a statement.

The plans were announced by Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who was called out on LBC Radio by presenter Nick Ferrari for the fact that Patel’s own parents, who migrated to Britain from East Africa, would not have qualified under these new proposals. She responded: “This isn’t about my background or my parents,” and added, “This is the point. We are changing our immigration policy to one that’s fit for purpose for our economy, based on skills.”

“Immigrants built Britain. Now their Conservative children are disowning them,” surmised Nesrine Malik in The Guardian. “The new immigration rules will not only hurt the country economically,” she writes, “they give a glimpse into a new world that is taking shape, one where non-elite jobs are stripped of all honour, virtue and value.”

The risk here—which has been pointed out repeatedly, already—is conflating “low-skilled” with “low-waged”, as well as focusing too much on economic, rather than social and cultural contributions. What makes a skill? Those in charge of this country don’t seem to know the answer to that question, and that’s worrying.

Moreover, the government wants the “best” migrants, but what makes a good migrant? Political journalist Marie Le Conte notes that “a points system […] shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the mindset of most immigrants, either by design or by mistake. Many successful people in the UK did not already have a brilliant career elsewhere. They came here first and built their fortunes afterwards.”

In the postwar period, patterns of British immigration have changed dramatically and repeatedly, from colonial and postcolonial immigration to the freedom of movement the EU provided for several decades. I don’t know what data the government has (that the rest of us don’t have access to), which means they know how our economy is going to develop in the next few decades.

My dad’s parents, who were born and raised in Fiji, migrated to London in the early 1960s. My grandfather would have counted as a “high-skilled” worker, though, as a dentist who qualified at Edinburgh University, as part of a Commonwealth scheme. Would such students be able or willing to come over nowadays? My grandparents were both born under the British Empire; there are no such considerations anymore.

I hate to give the Tories any credit, but they are doing a wonderful job at making this country an unattractive place to migrate to. Maybe this is their ultimate plan, to reduce migration by making no one want to migrate here and then blame the lack of migrants on the resultant issues. Either that or they’re waiting for the “illegal”, temporary migrants to be scapegoats for all their failings as a government.

I’m no expert on this issue, but this current plan is doomed to go badly. I hope that the government amends its plan as soon as possible before it starts getting ugly.

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