Post-Brexit immigration plan is recipe for economic chaos

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The government’s post-Brexit immigration system will produce an unstable and exploitative economy beset by labour shortages but will fail to reduce overall immigration, a report by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London concludes.

An image showing the Union Jack flag and European Union flag layered over each other

A new policy paper produced by the Britain in Europe think-tank, based in the Department of Law at Goldsmiths, argues that the planned points-based immigration approach (PBS) is at odds with the government’s own ‘Global Britain’ strategy to attract the brightest and best.

EU Immigrants in the UK: Their Future under the Points-Based System is available to download now

The report concludes that the proposal (which includes a £25.6k salary threshold for ‘skilled’ workers) is exclusionary, short-sighted, undemocratic, not evidence-based, and will lead to a decline in the UK’s standing as both a global economic player and as a defender of human rights. 

Not only will it produce an inefficient economy caused by labour shortages in several major sectors – including those deemed essential during the Covid-19 crisis – but the system could increase worker exploitation and push new groups of immigrants into undocumented status, the report’s authors say. 

Led by Dr Dagmar Myslinska, an immigration and commercial litigation lawyer and Lecturer in Law at Goldsmiths, EU Immigrants in the UK: Their Future under the Points-Based System highlights some of the most troublesome features of the Home Office’s new immigration policies. 

Dr Myslinska says: “Despite repeated government promises that settled EU nationals in Britain would have the same rights as British nationals, even they will be considered for deportation and swept under the UK’s overarching hostile environment policy towards immigration. 

“We can anticipate that tighter restrictions will lead to a severe shortage of workers, particularly in sectors such as social care, farming, food processing, hospitality and construction. Worker exploitation will be worsened by employer sponsorship requirements and a lack of access to social benefits and the imposition of health surcharge fees will further negatively impact immigrants’ lives. We can certainly expect more immigrants to be pushed ‘underground’, with all the risk that entails.”

“Instead of implementing un-reflexive, arguably xenophobic policies in line with the anti-migrant climate exploited in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, the UK needs to rethink the purpose of its immigration controls, and subject them to Parliamentary scrutiny rather than being left to the whims of the Home Office’s fragmented and over-politicised approach.” 

The authors predict that immigration to the UK from outside the EU will increase, while EU migration to the UK will fall, leading to no overall fall in immigration despite government rhetoric to the contrary. 

To mitigate a job shortage crisis, the report calls on the government to draft a list of shortage occupations, to include key-workers and select other positions which have been classified as ‘low-skill’. 

The report also highlights the impact that a significant fall in EU students studying in Britain will have on a higher education sector already in crisis. Without their home fee status and access to student loans, enrolment of EU students is expected to fall by 20%. 

BiE founder and director, and the Head of the Department of Law at Goldsmiths, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, said: “The UK government must change tack on EU students in the UK if we are to avoid losing one of the most intellectually and culturally vibrant parts of the student community in our universities: a narrative of openness and connectedness with EU member states, efficient, empathetic communication with students from the EU but, more importantly, programmes facilitating access to our universities for those, in our European neighbourhood, most in need of financial and practical support to study here should be obvious points of departure.”

The loss of students and the impact of other hostile policies preventing EU movers to the UK will also cause considerable long-term damage to Britain’s ability to produce, create, and innovate. 

Dr Myslinska says: “Studies have consistently documented EU movers’ enormous positive contribution to our cultural life and to public finances. They have contributed to so many aspects of British society – new ideas, expertise, customs and art. As a demographic they rely very little on public services and social benefits and have high employment rates. Yet government and media mis-information has encouraged many of us to believe the opposite. 

“The proposed policies are xenophobic, un-reflexive, and over-politicised. They do not acknowledge the multitude of immigrants’ economic, social and cultural contributions to the UK, but instead play into the anti-migrant climate exploited in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.”

Contributors to the report include Dr Michaela Benson, Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths; Caitlin Boswell from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants; civil rights campaigner and Secretary General of the citizens’ movement New Europeans, Roger Casale; founder of Britain in Europe, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos; Fizza Qureshi, Chief Executive Officer of Migrants’ Rights Network; and former Labour MEP Julie Ward.   

Read EU Immigrants in the UK: Their Future under the Points-Based System (PDF)