With the Coronavirus pandemic taking centre stage on news headlines all around the world for the past 6 months, a hugely significant piece of legislation seems to have slipped off the national radar. That legislation is the hotly contested Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU withdrawal) Act 2020, colloquially termed the ‘Immigration Bill’. The Bill received royal assent on Wednesday 11th November 2020.
What is the Immigration Bill?
The Immigration Bill effectively ends the free movement of workers between the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union. The legislation puts the European Union and European Economic Area on an equal footing to immigrants from outside the bloc. Furthermore, it introduces a new Australian style points-based system for controlling immigration into the country. Points will be awarded for immigrants who have certain ‘achievements’. Such achievements include being able to speak English to a certain standard, having a job offer from an improved employer and meeting a salary threshold of £25,600. To add a bit of background information, as of April 2020, a newly qualified nurse will earn an average of £24,907 per annum and a care worker will earn around £17,200…
The will of the British people
On Monday 9th November, Home Secretary Priti Patel – born to Indian parents who emigrated to the UK from Africa in the 1960s – announced the Government were ‘delivering on the will of the British people’.
This brings into question, is such a Bill delivering on British nationals will? Well, the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed attitudes towards those who class as a ‘skilled’ or ‘unskilled’ worker. Satbir Singh, CEO of the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants said our NHS and social care workers are not unskilled or unwelcome, they are the backbone of the country and deserve the security of knowing this place can be there home too. Foreign nationals make up a sixth of 840,000 care workers. These heroes were the subject of ‘Clap for Our Carers’ which echoed the public opinion on the high level of skill required to work in such an area. So, it is difficult to say that the Government is delivering on the will of British people. Many foreign nationals seeking care work over here would not gain enough points in the new immigration system, and that is a difficult concept to comprehend.
Outside of care work, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies throughout the UK that rely on ‘lower-skilled’ workers from European countries. For example, farming businesses continually struggle to access enough seasonal workers during the harvest season, and the majority of workers that do come over are from European Union states. The British Poultry Council alone says 60% of its 23,000 workers are from other European countries and this statistic is representative of the farming industry as a whole. The salary threshold of the new system suggests we do not regard farming, or even care work as requiring much skill, but they’re industries that provide for the nation, and this seems to have been overlooked by the Government.
What does this mean for British nationals?
The justification for such an immigration system has been based on the BREXIT selling point (for some people) of taking back control of our borders, but this is certainly not representative of British people as a whole. The flip side of the Bill which has received even less attention is that free movement will be restricted for British workers as well. It will be much more difficult for Brits to go and work abroad in other European Union member states which could be disastrous for some British seasonal workers who spend significant amounts of time abroad.
In conclusion, it is difficult to agree with Priti Patel’s submissions that the Government are ‘delivering on the will of the British people’. The Act will take force on January 1st 2021, so we will see the reaction of the British public in the new year.