The Government have suggested that they will distinguish between high and low-skilled migrants and discriminate in favour of the former. On the face of it, that is a logical position, yet all indications are that their real distinction will be between high and low-paid migrant workers, which will leave a range of sectors struggling with skills and labour shortages, including among nurses, social care workers, agricultural workers and others in the private sector. This artificial distinction between high and low-skilled migrants, which is really about income, is both unfair and potentially damaging to the economy,
The Government have long been promising a new immigration Bill for a post-Brexit environment, but it seems that there is a split in the Government—I know it sounds shocking—between adjusting the immigration system towards supporting our economic needs and a constant campaign against migrants and migration. They will probably try to do both—“have cake and eat it” politics. There is also no indication that they will drop their unworkable net migration target, which has never once been met but which allows a continuing negative narrative campaign against migration and migrants. The level of non-EU migration alone is currently running close to 250,000 a year, and that is migration over which the Government have absolute control. There is no indication either that they intend to end the hostile environment policy—rename it yes, but end it no—yet we know that it led directly to the Windrush scandal.
The spurious distinction between high and low-skilled migrants, which is really discrimination against the lower-paid, will have negative consequences for a range of sectors. We await with interest the publication of the immigration Bill to see how the internal differences within the Government are resolved, but the Government are asking all of us to vote for their deal without telling us what their new immigration policy will be. This is a blindfold Brexit deal. As I said at the beginning, the Opposition honour and respect the referendum vote, but how can it be that Ministers are asking the House to vote for a deal that neither leavers nor remainers are happy with; asking us to vote for a deal when so many crucial issues, notably on security, are not yet clear; and asking us to vote for a deal that could endanger not just our economy but our security? The more we examine the deal, the more it becomes clear that the House cannot vote for it.