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For decades, people in this country have talked about immigration. When it comes to EU migration, that national debate has been entirely academic, as the UK had so little control over it. In 2016, the British people were asked their view on membership of the EU. Some suggest that immigration was the main driver in making their decision to leave. I think that there were several reasons, but without doubt, immigration was clearly a key driver—the control of our borders and the ending of free movement.
A question was asked; a question was answered. Although too many Members of the last Parliament did not get it, today we can put the dilly, dally, dither and delay to an end. I understand that some are concerned by what they see as a bizarre concept: the end of free movement. To me, it is rather simple: a UK immigration system created and developed by the UK’s elected Government; a system devised in our national interest, determined by the needs of our economy; a system that treats immigrants from every corner of the globe on the same basis, which is all about what they are bringing to our country rather than where they are coming from.
The Bill means that the nurses, doctors, engineers and scientists from the Philippines, Canada, India or the USA will be treated equally to those from Germany, Italy or France. The Bill is not anti-immigration; it is about fair immigration. It will mean that applicants will be judged on their skills and talents, not just their country of origin. The European backdoor will be closed, but Britain will be very much open to the brightest and best, wherever they come from. It is absurd that someone from outside the EU might be denied access to this country based on criminality, while someone from the EU who met the same threshold would be free to enter. It is wrong and it must end.
Very often, the country has chosen to import huge segments of its workforce. Actually, we need to look at why we fail to find the right people with the right skills domestically. The success of this system will be determined by the adaptability and flexibility of the shortage occupation list, coupled with a renewed effort to train, incentivise and invest in our domestic workforce. At the same time, I am glad that the Government are working to welcome the migrants who make such a valued contribution to our NHS, extending the visas of frontline NHS workers and introducing a new NHS visa with fast-track entry and more generous terms.
I am happy to be talking about our borders because it is a subject that concerns many people in my constituency, but also because it is crucial at this time to secure our borders. I have discussed this issue with the Home Secretary and look forward to hearing her express our shared concern to deliver a swift and active solution. Let us give the people what they want and what they voted for: a country in control of its own borders, with a fairer, firmer points-based system that will welcome the brightest and the best based on what they can contribute to this country and not on where they come from.