Proposed immigration bill “a threat to the national interest”

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Immigration bill “a threat to the national interest” says Shadow Home Secretary

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The Government’s proposed points-based immigration bill, which has previously been described as “disastrous” for the hospitality sector, poses "a threat to the national interest” says Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary.

In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Nick Thomas-Symonds has called for a rethink on the bill, saying the legislation is aimed at making overseas workers feel unwelcome in the UK.

“It is, frankly, rank hypocrisy from the government towards EU nationals – over 180,000 in England and Wales alone – who are currently working in our NHS and in the care sector, for ministers to stand and clap for them on a Thursday night, and then tell them that they are not welcome in the UK on a Monday,” he wrote.

The bill, which is set to appear before MPs later today (18 May), marks the latest phase in the Government’s plan to bring in an ‘Australian-style’ points-based immigration system that would favour workers who are judged to be ‘high-skilled’, and aim to end ‘low-skilled’ migration from the EU once the UK leaves the bloc at the end of the year.

According to proposals released in February​, those wishing to come and work in the UK from the EU under the new system would have to secure a job with a minimum salary threshold of £25,600. 

Those earning less than £25,600, but more than £20,480, would still be able to apply for a visa if it was to work in a “specific shortage occupation” role; while anyone earning less than £20,480 would not be able to take a job in the country.

The proposals would effectively make it impossible for hospitality businesses to secure EU migrants for entry-level waiting and cooking roles, as well as kitchen porters and baristas, and provoked fierce condemnation​ from inside the industry when they were first announced.

There are, however, suggestions that opposition to the bill could increase in light of the support shown to key workers during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, many of which would be considered ‘low-skilled’ under a new points-based system. 

A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) suggests 54% of people now support looser immigration controls for workers regarded as essential during the pandemic.

The Government list of critical workers during the crisis includes care staff; food processing staff; supermarket workers; and delivery drivers.

However, with a Tory majority of 80, the bill is expected to pass easily. 

“This historic piece of legislation gives the UK full control of our immigration system for the first time in decades and the power to determine who comes to this country,” says Patel.

“Our new points-based system is firmer, fairer, and simpler. It will attract the people we need to drive our economy forward and lay the foundation for a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy.”

Full details of the new immigration rules are expected to be published later this year.

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