British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a COP28 plenary session, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday December 1, 2023. PETER DEJONG / AP

The British government is significantly tightening its immigration policy, thereby risking damage to the country’s economy, which is already suffering from a labor shortage. On Monday 4 December, Home Secretary James Cleverly announced an increase in the minimum annual income required to settle in the UK from £26,200 to over £38,700.

Access to the NHS, the public healthcare system (free for Brits), costs over £1,000 a year. Non-British social care workers will no longer be able to bring their families with them. Finally, employers in sectors under pressure (construction, education, etc.) are no longer allowed to hire foreigners at wages 20% below the minimum wage.

Prime Minister Sunak’s goal, under strong pressure from his Conservative party, is to drastically reduce legal migration. Despite the end of freedom of movement for Europeans after Brexit and the introduction of a work visa system, it has reached historically high levels. “We want to reduce annual arrivals by at least 300,000,” Cleverly told the House of Commons.

Broken promise

According to revised figures published on November 23 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), net migration to the UK (the difference between arrivals and departures) reached 745,000 in 2022. In 2016, at the time of the Brexit referendum, it was half as high, although one of the main arguments of supporters of leaving the European Union (EU) was to “regain control” over the country’s borders. In other words, Conservative David Cameron’s 2010 promise upon his arrival at Downing Street to reduce migration to fewer than 100,000 annual arrivals has fallen far short of being kept.

If European net migration has logically fallen since Brexit (it has become negative, with 86,000 emigrants of EU citizens between June 2022 and June 2023), it has been largely driven by people from Africa (Nigeria) and Asia (India, China, Pakistan) replaced). Despite his anti-migrant rhetoric, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a more liberal post-Brexit regime in 2021, allowing students and work visa holders to bring their relatives and introducing exemptions from wage floors for jobs in priority sectors (welfare and the NHS). workforce).

Read more: The article is not subscribed to. Post-Brexit, migrant agricultural workers in the UK are increasingly coming from Asia

Aside from complicating life for many British citizens (who will need to prove an annual income of at least £38,700 to bring their non-British spouse into the UK), these new rules, which apply from 2024, are likely to make life more balanced for Hospital managers more difficult. Around 19% of NHS staff are non-British citizens and despite this heavy reliance on foreign workers, the NHS is still short of 40,000 nurses. The United Kingdom is also suffering from a shortage of doctors, having not invested adequately in the training of its nursing staff for decades.

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