The post-Brexit United Kingdom will be a very different place in terms of immigration policy under guidelines released by Boris Johnson’s administration this week. And some of the planks on that platform will probably sound quite familiar to those of you who have been following Donald Trump’s immigration priorities here in the United States. The biggest change is the elimination of large numbers of openings for unskilled labor coming across the English Channel. Instead, BoJo’s team will be prioritizing the immigration of more highly educated, skilled professionals in engineering, education and the sciences. (Politico)
The U.K. government will not create a visa route for low-skilled migrants and temporary workers in its post-Brexit immigration system, which will give “top priority” to those with the highest skills, including scientists, engineers and academics.
A policy paper published Tuesday evening outlines plans for a new points-based system after EU freedom of movement ends in December. The report said employers “will need to adjust” to not being able to recruit unskilled workers from Europe.
“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the paper said.
In addition to requiring skills relevant to a list of professions where their needs are greatest, the Brits will also require the applicants to speak English before being admitted. I would imagine that much of this is sounding more and more familiar to American readers.
This is one area where we can see how Brexit was far more than a question of trade policy. It also came about because of severe differences between the more socially conservative attitudes of the Tories and their allies and the largely liberalized views of the leadership in most western European nations. This is particularly true when looking at the literal open border policies of Angela Merkel and some of her biggest supporters like Emmanuel Macron.
For many years now, the flood of refugees and “economic migrants” coming into the EU has been a sticking point for enough Europeans that some significantly more conservative political parties have been gaining power in recent years. With them have come increased incidents of terror attacks and financial strains of social service programs. The United Kingdom has not been immune to these problems and people have definitely noticed.
Some British employers are already pushing back on this plan because it reduces the availability of cheap foreign labor to fill their jobs. The current unemployment rate in the United Kingdom is barely higher than America’s at 3.8%. Some would argue that this statistic suggests a need for more foreign workers. But the Conservative’s position is that competition for workers will drive wages upward, improving the general quality of life all the way around.
These aren’t the only cultural differences coming into focus. The Brits have always had a different flavor to their social structures than most of the rest of the continent. This is particularly true of their special relationship with the United States and the language and heritage that we share in common. And now that they’re coming out from under the yoke of the European Union, you can expect their differences with France, Germany and all the rest to be even more on display. Given the fact that BoJo isn’t likely to have to face another election for five years, it seems safe to predict that we’ll see more of these types of policies rolling out over the course of the year.