UK not ‘slamming gate shut’ with new post-Brexit migration system, Boris Johnson says
Boris Johnson said Britain would not be ‘stopping anybody, anywhere from coming into this country’ under the new set-up. (Image: PA)
Britain’s post-Brexit immigration system is not about “simply slamming the gates” shut once the UK leaves the European Union, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister promised that the new points-based system, detailed on Monday, would usher in a “humane and sensible” approach to migration from around the world.
But the Government has confirmed that social care workers will not be included in a new health and social care visa aimed at avoiding labour shortages in the cash-strapped sector.
Instead, Number 10 called on social care providers to do more to invest in staff in the UK.
Under the new points-based post-Brexit set-up, EU nationals will be treated in the same way as those from outside the bloc, overhauling a system that has been governed by EU freedom of movement rules for decades.
The new arrangement — set to come into force from January 1 next year — will see Britain’s borders closed to ‘non-skilled’ workers and many required to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £25,600 to apply.
Those wishing to live and work in the UK will be required to gain 70 points, with credit awarded for job offers, relevant academic qualifications and English language skills.
‘TAKING BACK CONTROL’
Mr Johnson said that millions of EU citizens already in Britain had registered to stay in the UK under the Government’s EU settlement scheme, meaning the country had “a big, big stock of workers who are helping out in this country who have come from abroad”.
And he added: “Although, of course, we are going to be taking back control [and] we are controlling our immigration system, we're not going to be just simply slamming the gates and stopping anybody, anywhere from coming into this country.
“Where people can contribute to this country, where people want to make their lives and do great things for this country, of course we're going to have a humane and sensible system.”
Unveiling the proposals, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our new system sends a message to the whole world that Britain is open for business, but on our terms.”
Under a new ‘health and care visa’ detailed by the Government on Monday, individuals deemed to be “skilled” health and care professionals will see fast-tracked entry, reduced application fees and extra support for their families to come to the UK.
They will also be exempt from paying the Government’s ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’, which sees migrants asked to pay hundreds of pounds towards the running costs of the NHS.
But those on the health and care route will still have the meet the Home Office’s new salary threshold, and the list of occupations eligible for the scheme, unveiled on Monday, does not include social care workers.
Defending that move on Monday, the Prime Minster’s spokesperson said: “We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country."
And they added: “On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5bn funding for social care in 2021-22 as well as launching a new recruitment campaign.
“It’s also worth stressing that the EU workers who are contributing so much to our care sector can apply to stay in the UK through our settlement and a very large number have done so. Those people will remain in the UK providing really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable.”
Asked whether that meant care providers should be boosting staff wages, the Number 10 spokesperson said immigration is not "the sole answer" for the sector.
"And what we’ve done is provide councils with an additional £1.5bn for social care as well as launching a new recruitment campaign," they added.
Mr Johnson meanwhile told reporters the Government had introduced the living wage and invested in social care, a sign that ministers wanted to support a sector which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to look after people who work in our social care sector and make sure that they are properly paid,” he said.
But shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds claimed anyone reading the Government's 130-page document "will be asking themselves what ministers have against care workers".
“To exclude care workers from the health visa is a clear signal that this government does not appreciate the skill and dedication these roles involve," the Labour frontbencher said.
“Frankly, it is yet another insult from this Tory party to those who have been at the frontline of this crisis.”
Ed Davey, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the plans would be “a disaster for the small businesses that power the UK economy, just as they are struggling to survive the coronavirus crisis”.
And he added: “Key sectors like construction and hospitality, already facing enormous challenges, will face staffing shortages. The existing social care crisis will get even worse as there is so little time to prepare for this new system.
“Given the shortage of time and the mountain of red tape that everyone including the Home Office will face, far from restoring public confidence in the immigration system, this will just cause chaos and confusion.”
Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB union, meanwhile said: “The Government’s new immigration rules are descending into an embarrassing shambles and makes no consideration or acknowledgement of the vital job care workers have been doing these past few months.
“The proposed ‘health and care visa’ apparently fails to include care workers and NHS contractors within its scope – and imposes salary thresholds that would prevent most underpaid care workers and many NHS porters, cleaners, and other support staff from qualifying for in any event.”
As well as the health and care visa, the Government on Monday fleshed out its plans for a ‘Global Talent’ immigration route.
That route will ease entry requirements for people “internationally recognised at both the highest level and as leaders in their particular field" or who have "demonstrated promise and are likely to become leaders in their particular area”.