Controlling migration was one of the preeminent components of the Leave campaign, and it is evident that Britain no longer wants free-movement of labour between other EU countries and the UK. 250,000 EU citizens moved to the UK in 2016, causing issues in some areas, such as ethnic segregation, a strain on public services, and declining wages in low-skilled jobs. Despite these issues, the significant role of immigrants in the UK’s economic growth is undeniable.
With Britain leaving the EU, prime minister Theresa May has set a target that net migration drops to below 100,000, from 248,000 in 2016.
While having control of immigration is good for the UK, this target is definitely not the right way to implement control.
By restricting immigration in this way, the UK will no longer have access to a huge selection of skills and talent that can supplement its labour market and economy. Organisations which rely hugely on immigrants, such as the NHS, will suffer, precipitating a huge crash in the economy, with per capita income and living standards falling behind expected growth rates.
While this approach would also prevent many of the issues that immigration causes, the disadvantages created are far greater.
A more suitable response would be to impose no such target. If an economic immigrant adds something to the economy, they should be allowed in. Liberty of movement between EU countries has fuelled economic growth in the UK, and it should continue to do so. However, to prevent the issues described above, the UK should use its newfound powers on immigration to impose limits in certain areas.
If a migrant seeking immigration does not intend to work, or indeed our economy is not in need of a worker with their skill set, then they should not be allowed in. When our infrastructure is being strained, immigration should be restricted until local governments can expand local infrastructure to accommodate for the new immigrants. Immigrants should be made to learn English and understand important aspects of our culture to increase cohesion and reduce ethnic segregation. If needed, the government could introduce a new class of national insurance for immigrants, in order to help pay for the new infrastructure needed.
Other groups of immigrants, such as refugees, need to be considered as well.
In the case of refugees, the UK should be flexible about allowing them in, especially in times of international crisis. However, as above, sensible controls need to be imposed.
International students are another group of immigrants that should be let in as much as possible. They pay two to three times the university tuition fees that UK students pay, along with added leisure expenditure. Additionally, the international students can provide vital skills to the economy when they have finished their degree.
Business leaders, such as Sir James Dyson, are in need of skilled immigrants to grow their businesses. Dyson says it is difficult enough getting skilled young engineers through the visa system already, without further tightening of the immigration rules. Without a doubt, international students contribute a huge amount to the economy, but also provide a more varied and interesting social and intellectual culture.
May should not impose a rigid target on international students, and instead encourage them into our country, but with sensible controls and constraints depending on the state of local infrastructure and universities (if they are not able to expand and meet the needs of UK and international students, them the inflows of international students should be restricted).
Theresa May should adopt a flexible approach to immigration, allowing immigrants in as much as possible to benefit the economy, society, and to aid humanitarian causes. However, sensible controls should be imposed to suit the circumstances. May’s current approach of a rigid net migration target of 100,000 is both unachievable and un-beneficial not just for the UK but also the rest of the world.