Our borders should be tight, not closed

I like to think I have campaigned pretty consistently against pointless quotas and restrictions

Sheesh. Cool it, folks. I know that from time to time this column has scandalised some readers with its laissez-faire approach. I opposed the ban on fox-hunting. I had a pop at mandatory booster seats for 10-year-olds and warnings on wine bottles that the contents can make you drunk, and I have drawn attention to the paranoid airline rule that an unaccompanied adult male may not be allowed to sit next to children. I have even defended the inalienable right of every freeborn Englishman or woman – provided he or she is in full command of the vehicle – to ride a bicycle while talking on a mobile phone.

I like to think I have campaigned pretty consistently against pointless quotas and restrictions, and sometimes readers have objected to my libertarianism. But never have I provoked such pant-hooting anger as when I suggested, the other day, that we might revisit the new cap on the number of talented people who can come to work in this country.

Trawling the web, I came on a sensationalised report of my views, together with a thread of comments. It was like opening the door of the monkey house in the middle of a riot. It was a pandemonium of incredulous anger. I was a “traitor”, cried the internet commentariat.

The gist of my plan (or so they seemed to think) was to commandeer super-ferries laden with unemployed Venusian layabouts, draw them up off the beaches at Ramsgate and Deal, and then open the bow doors and order the hordes to swarm ashore – scrounging benefits from under the noses of the indigenous people.

They seemed to think, in short, that I was in favour of uncontrolled immigration. Perhaps through misreporting, perhaps because I hadn’t made myself clear enough, they had picked up the idea that I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jack Straw and Tony Blair, and open the floodgates, take the brakes off and generally let rip.

So perhaps I can enter a nervous cough of clarification. That impression is wrong. That is the opposite of what I am saying, and the last thing this country needs.

Of all the revelations about the Blair years, one of the most fascinating and suggestive has been the confession by Andrew Neather – a former Labour apparatchik and now a reputable journalist – that Labour ministers secretly decided in 2000 to turn the immigration tap on full blast.

They did this, he claims, not so much because the economy demanded more skilled workers from overseas, but because they wanted to transform Britain for good, to make the place more multicultural and “to rub the Tories’ nose in it”, by which I suppose he means to make the Conservatives seem ever more remote and out of touch with the realities of a changing country.

Of course, during the boom years there were some serious economic benefits that flowed. Business had a ready supply of labour, skilled and unskilled, and that helped to hold down wages and prices. But by the same token, the policy hit the very people that had traditionally been identified by Labour as its core vote – people who found, or certainly believed, that they were losing jobs, homes and benefits to the incomers; and their fears were by no means always groundless.

There is some evidence, for example, that British building companies cancelled training projects for British workers, because they found they could just hire Poles and other East Europeans who needed no training. During the first decade of this century, 2.3 million immigrants were added to the population, and as the decade wore on – especially as the economy turned bad – people’s resentment became easy to fan, whether it was justifiable or not.

After years of quiescence, the far-Right was back on the scene. By this year’s general election, the issue of immigration had become utterly toxic, and all parties were calling for something to be done. Labour had already introduced a points-based system, but the Tories wanted to go further. They were, of course, statutorily incapable of addressing a large part of the problem – immigration from the 27 countries of the EU.

So at the end of June, the Coalition imposed a strict numerical cap on all skilled non-EU immigration. The result, I regret to say, is a bit of a shambles. Leading London law firms say that they cannot import some of the finest legal minds on the planet, because they cannot get enough visas.

Universities and cancer research institutes cannot recruit the right overseas academics, damaging their long-term reputations. Ballet stars and film directors are finding themselves excluded from London’s arts scene, and across the world of business and finance there is a block on the intra-company movement of the kind of highly skilled technicians – especially in IT – who are crucial for keeping a business competitive. There is an Asian electric vehicle company that was due to set up here, but is now thinking of moving to Amsterdam because they can’t migrate their boffins here in time. And so on.

The overwhelming view of British business is that this policy needs refinement, and I have to say I agree. But this is not, repeat not, a request for anything like the apparently politically motivated and uncontrolled immigration of the New Labour years. That would be a serious mistake.

With colossal pressure on all budgets, such a policy would be unfair on the existing population and indeed on communities of recent immigrants. We need tougher border controls, an end to illegal immigration and time, frankly, to absorb the recent influx. But if London is to continue to generate the tax revenue Britain demands, we need to attract top talent from around the world.

Uncontrolled, unskilled immigration – no. Bringing indispensable skills to London – yes.

Boris writes in The Daily Telegraph on Mondays

23 thoughts on “Our borders should be tight, not closed”

  1. I don’t think they need to import skilled immigrants. why didn’t trained their own people for the job suited for them. I’m sure the government can find a better solutions but i’m sure they rather choose the easiest way to just import people and let their own people to starve. Too sad.

  2. Boris, you are right.

    London needs the best brains in the world, and many of the shortages are not going to be solved by offering re-training to the unemployed.

    Lets take consultant surgeons as an example, the NHS needs more such staff to keep our hospitals open, and even if London’s unemployed had the right innate qualities (some may, but many will not) the process of obtaining a degree in medicine and working up through the ranks before achieving the elevated status of Consultant takes over a decade.

  3. New York’s plan to attract people with innate quality is to incubate nanotech companies through investment in innovative centres in the city, a good solution for job creation and retention, leading to more competitive and sophisticated economic growth!

    “(Nanowerk News) New York State Assemblyman Al Stirpe (121st district) today announced an exciting new partnership that will bring high-tech jobs and economic growth to the CenterState New York region through the creation of the Nanotechnology Innovation and Commercialization Excelerator (NICE) at Electronics Park, in Salina.
    A partnership between Lockheed Martin, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany, and the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CenterState CEO), the $250 million NICE initiative will enable the creation of 250 new high-tech jobs and position the region to become a leader in the nanotechnology industry by building on the growing cluster of nanoscale education, research and development, and commercialization assets in upstate New York.”

  4. I am an Australian trained Teacher. I interviewed for, and was offered, a position at a comprehensive. I received the position ahead of three British teachers, at a HIGHER rate of pay due to my expertise and experience. I have the money waiting to pay for my Visa, subject to the certificate of sponsorship.

    That certificate has been held up due to these meaningless new quotas. If the job could have been done by one of the local teachers, they would have been hired. I have worked here for two years, paid my taxes, bills and rent on time. I am a literate aneiki ersity trained professional from an English speaking country. In fact, coming from the Commonwealth these days means nothing compared to the EU.

    I do not resent the freedom of movement in the EU. I merely wonder why it is that a citizen of the Commonwealth cannot settle here without such rigmarole, but can vote in the general elections!

  5. “I am a literate and university trained professional,” that should have said. The joys of writing on an iPhone as my Internet has yet to be reconnected!

  6. Uncontrolled, unskilled immigration – no. Bringing indispensable skills to London – yes.

    Boris, this is fascinating, particularly in light of the fact that when you came to Britain, you had not yet mastered toilet training. What skills would you say you brought?

  7. The second generation of Muslim migrants is facing a huge challenge because they did not think even for a second before that someone would say, ‘You are not welcome.'”

    Continue to moan about immigration. You want Turkey and India to do business with Britain and you dont want their citizens in Britain. What a contradiction!

    A cap on immigration from third world countries will be imposed despite cabinet concern that the policy could harm the economy. The school secretary and university minister have raised concerns that the cap could deprive the economy of skilled labour. Baroness Valentine said that the word cap is a very negative word to put out to the global market place.

    While EU nationals generally have full access to all social benefits and housing on the same basis as British citizens (those from the central and eastern European accession states have to be in registered employment for a year first), the visas of non-EU economic migrants are issued subject to the condition of ‘no recourse to public funds’. That means no welfare benefits and no public housing. Only schools and NHS treatment are freely available to non-EU economic migrant workers and their families – but the small numbers involved mean that the impact is negligible. And in terms of social justice, why shouldn’t migrant workers be entitled to public services funded by their taxes and national insurance contributions?

    This is not a race or religion issue for me, as an example a doctor from the sub-continent, might well have similar medical or surgical skills to one from within the EU, but the former would be likely to have better command of the English language, and therefore more likely to be able to respond appropriately.

    There is a strong connection between economic success and the contribution of immigrants. A study suggests that a 1% population increase through migration triggers 1.5% increase in GDP. Immigrants are also human beings with social, emotional and spiritual needs and demands. They are not just economics for the economic prosperity of the British society.

    Migration is good for economy and business. Migrants pay more taxes than they use in public services. They are just economic slaves of the British society.They have never been treated as human beings. They have been victim of racism,discrimination,bullying,physical and verbal abuse. Unskilled migrants are not welcomed because they are not economically beneficial for Britain.

    Without foreign workers, British economy will bleed to death. British society must be greatful to the foreign workers who kept them alive.

    Now migrant communities need doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers with their cultural backgrounds and who can speak their languages. They are in a better position to serve and satisfy their needs and demands.

    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.The number of Muslim schools is on the increase. The new Academies Bill will help Muslim community to set up state funded Muslim schools for each and every Muslim child. Muslim schools are not only faith schools but alos bilingual schools. Thye need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. Muslim schools should be give the right to recruit bilingual teachers from Muslim countries. Majority of Muslim children are from the sub-continent, therefore, majority of bilingual teachers should bne recruited from there.

    There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim Academies..
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  8. As Boris points out, mass immigration is good for the ruling class and bad for the working class. That’s why we have it. The ruling class benefit from cheaply available labour, particularly domestic staff, in child care, restaurants and hotels and other services. The working class faces competiton for jobs, homes and services.

    Restricting the inflow of skilled labour is leaning further in the same direction, protecting the better-off at the expense of the common people. From my selfish point of view, that’s absolutely fine.

  9. Iftikhar Ahmad: “There is no place for a non-Muslim child in a Muslim School”.
    So after complaining about ‘discrimination’ against immigrants, you advocate, uh, discrimination.
    I’m missing something, but I’m not I’m not sure what.

  10. The entry of some 69,000 “highly skilled” non-EU workers has been the subject of considerable contention and acrimonious debate. No matter what restrictions are introduced by government there will inevitably be instances where employers will either seek to evade restrictions or “game the system” (e.g. around 18 months ago Woolwich Jobcentre advertised a vacancy for a Pastor who had to be a member of the United Dutch Reform Church and speak fluent Afrikaans – no prizes for guessing that this vacancy couldn’t be filled locally and a nice chap from South Africa filled the position).

    It seems obvious to me that in order to demonstrate that they have a requirement which is incapable of being filled locally many employers apply pedantic and/or onerous requirements to the Job Descriptions which they supply to Jobcentre Plus so that they can “import” employees who are already working for them overseas. However, rather than abandon the “points based” system which is currently in place it would be better to make it work for the good of Britain by making some minor adjustments.

    What I have in mind is this. Some years ago an acquaintance of mine worked in West Africa for a British company. In order to obtain a local permit to work his employer had to undertake to employ a local assistant to the ex-pat and to train the assistant in the ex-pat’s role. I can see no reason why we should not be able to do the same thing in Britain.

    I would propose that before permission is granted for a non-EU “skilled worker” to work in the UK then his employer must undertake to employ an apprentice who is currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance. The apprentice must follow an approved training course leading, perhaps, to an NVQ.

    On the current figure of 69,000 skilled workers then the recruitment of a similar number of apprentices would save the Exchequer £186 million in young person’s JSA.

    On the other hand prospective employers might just suddenly discover that they might be able to get along with employing “less highly skilled” British workers saving the Exchequer up to £234 million in standard JSA.

    We should also make allowances for situations where a prospective employer claims that it would impractical/impossible for him to take on an apprentice. In such circumstances, I would suggest that a “training levy” of around £15,000 be imposed. This would allow the government to provide paid apprenticeships with an alternative employer for 2 years. Frankly, I can see the Exchequer being quite keen at the prospect of raising £1.035 billion in levy fees alone.

    I can see a number of advantages to adopting the approach with I have outlined in the foregoing (apart from financial). It would “bear down” on applications for “skilled worker” permits, encourage employers to train their own staff, finance an increased number of apprenticeships and help to reduce unemployment figures.

  11. Personally, I don’t think Boris went far enough. I am for uncontrolled immigration. Let all who want to come come here and ply their trade.

    I’m for controlling benefits. Anyone who has not paid into our tax system for 10 years doesn’t get any benefits at all. None. No child benefit, no dole, no housing benefit.

    The taxes they pay and the work they will do will benefit the UK. Pity about the minimum wage laws, our positive discrimination and the millions of other laws the EU and UK whingey whiney liberal politicians have made to our detriment. If we get rid of all those then immigrants will be positive members of society and we welcome those.

  12. Boris is right – this countries should take more non-EU skilled migrants in.

    Right now this countries is flooded with poor, illiterate immigrants from the former communist Eastern Bloc whom, by British laws (!), the local councils are obliged to provide free council housing, free health care, free education and social benefits on arrival.

    Can you apply for a council house/ council flat in any Mediterranean country for a life of sun, sand and sex and social benefits to go with it?

    In the UK, child benefit is £20/ week/ per child/ until he reaches 18 years of age. In the Eastern Bloc, child benefit is £10/ month/ per child/ for 12 months only. No wonder right now, 3 out of 4 babies born in the UK have Eastern Bloc parents who drive brand new cars.

    Aussie Brendan Jones wonders why it is that a citizen of the Commonwealth can not settle here without such rigmarole. Well, I wish a British citizen could up sticks and freely migrate to Australia as a citizen of the Commonwealth. But then again, after living in the UK for 5 years, an Eastern Bloc person can become a British citizen and could freely move to Australia, too!

    Our borders should be tight, not closed ? Tell that to those Carry On films actors.

  13. The Pope, currently visiting the United Kingdom, exclaimed that he thought he was in a third world country looking at the British streets crowded with multi-colored people. And who can blame him?

    I mean years ago, when the EU was still called the EEC, consisting mainly of western European countries, we already had this agreement that all citizens of the EEC had the right to move and live and work in any EEC countries. But at that time, Britain did not have a problem with masses of immigrants coming from less prosperous EEC countries, say, Spain etc… I guess it is because the living standards in all EEC countries have always been very similar- no one is starving. Hence not many EEC western European citizens think of leaving their homeland for a better life in another member country.

    But now with the addition of new EEC member states who are less well-off, it is a completely different story. Immigrants from the Balkans, Central Europe and those former Soviet socialist slave republics, growing up in poor conditions, are small and not as tall as western Europeans and are not very polished. They look like Eastern European peasants. Like people in a black and white 2WW documentary film. Not fully developed.

    On top of these, you have masses of illegal immigrants coming from other height-challenged nations, pirate countries or over-sunshine countries. There you have an interesting melting pot.

    You just need to go to any shopping centres and look at the people walking on the streets and you can tell who are who.

  14. rtyu,

    As long as the development application was handled according to process and was all done in the open what would be the issue? People in that position,including Red Ken himself, face conflict of issue cases all the time. Some are handled OK others not and are exposed.

    The only real conflict of interest imo comes when people benefit directly from a third party. Cash for honours and so on and according to what I see that seems perfectly acceptable. I the right people do it of course.

  15. Johnson has raised £243,000 to stand for mayor of London, with cash coming from some of the wealthiest Conservative supporters in the country. This puts him well ahead of Livingstone and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick. Among the main donors are John Beckwith, who co-founded the London & Edinburgh Trust, a huge property empire, and is now chairman of the private investment company Pacific Investments plc. He has given £50,000.

  16. Boris,
    How about we start with lifting the cap for foreign Mayors and MPs then? We can get rid of you and any other UK MPs and replace you all with cheaper politicians from various corrupt third world countries.
    Before you laugh away this idea as ridiculous, remember this – we had Labour in charge not so long ago – maybe corrupt third world politicians would have been an improvement…

  17. Boris, You’re absolutely right about the housing problem – infact you’ve exposed Osbourne and Cameron as a couple of dandies who are not the slightest bit interested in anyone eithew than their own ends. I’ve just thought of a Utopia State – you as the PM and the two aforementioned ‘gentlemen’ desperately seeking work and living in the back of their cars. Go on Boris Make it happen – you’re the best thing to come along in the last 500 years – good luck !

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