Yesterday’s announcement on migration caps feels like the UK government is still too bogged down in politics when the one thing everybody should be focused on is promoting economic growth. Sometimes compromise just isn’t enough.
Immigration policy is a prime example of being stuck in “political treacle”, and which is already damaging the economy, specifically private sector businesses requiring key skills to drive growth.
Admittedly, there was welcome news on Tier 2 visas (workers with job offers, where the number of visas will rise from 7,000 to 20,700), but from April next year, Tier 1 visas – which consist of highly-skilled workers who are allowed to come to the UK without a job offer – is being slashed from 14,000 to 1,000.
Compare that to student visas, which apparently number some 360,000 per annum. We all agree that immigration abuse needs to be urgently dealt with, but if we have a shortage of resident skills, why put unnecessary restrictions on ourselves?
At the same time as restricting ourselves on the inflow of key skills, we’ve seen a mass exodus of our wealth creators, specifically individuals and businesses moving to more favourable tax regimes, without the burdens of red tape that UK businesses are now facing.
It’s one thing to say that we’ll promote the UK as a “destination of choice” for entrepreneurs and wealth creators and letting them in, but it’s another to actually convince people to set businesses up here. It’s urgent that Britain backs itself up, persuading entrepreneurs to consider the UK in the first place.
Contrary to the political rhetoric, research shows that almost all immigrants have a positive impact on the UK economy, and skilled ones more than most. Overall, the FT estimates that the cost to UK economic output of restricting immigration could be as much as £33 billion by 2015.
Skilled migrants are not a burden on public services, they do not commit more crime, they do not take the jobs of British workers, etc. It’s time to fight back against these myths.