Britain needs a steady stream of immigration – here’s why



Earlier this week the hawkish think tank, Migration Watch, called on the Home Secretary to set an annual cap on immigration to avoid the number of people coming to this country for work “running rapidly out of control”. As our departure from the EU draws ever closer, the government has to come up with an alternative to the free movement of people which we currently enjoy. Unfortunately, it seems that Sajid Javid is minded to take our immigration policy in a regressive direction.

Much is made of ‘legitimate fears about immigration’, and yes, we must pay heed to the concerns of people who feel their job security is coming under threat from migrants. But this can be addressed by creating a more dynamic economy, investing in education and training, and having a more open, honest debate about the issues people are worried about. The answer is not to slam the door shut.

Indeed, the government’s determination to dramatically curb low-skilled immigration flies in the face of Britain’s – and specifically, London’s – commitment to tolerance, to inclusivity, and to ambition. The arguments in favour of cosmopolitanism are well-rehearsed, but they are worth repeating. We can imbibe culture and cuisine from every corner of the earth. From a business perspective, we benefit from the brightest and the best coming here to pursue their careers.

It is not as though we have a huge surplus of labour supply, either. The CBI has made its concerns clear, with its director-general Carolyn Fairbairn warning that, “Restricting access to the workers the UK needs is self-defeating. By dismissing the importance of low-skilled workers to the economy the government risks harming businesses and living standards now and in the future.” In every respect, pandering to the right by putting such stringent controls in place is a backwards step.

My great sadness is that these proposals – rooted firmly in the Brexit era – will potentially deny millions of the opportunities from which I benefitted decades ago. I am a proud first-generation immigrant. I came to Britain in 1984 and 34 years later, it remains my home. London is a city like no other, one which allowed me to build my business from the ground up, and give my children a better life.

Who is to say that a worker designated as ‘low-skilled’, and therefore denied a life in Britain under Tory government plans, could not begin their life in the UK working at a Tube station kiosk, only to build an international empire?

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