The government's reintroduction of an Australian-style points based immigration system was announced today. In the unveiling policy statement, the government states that "for the first time in decades the UK will have full control over who comes to this country and how our immigration system operates" . The announcement itself is not exactly radical. The fact that the free movement of EU citizens will come to an end has been government policy since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The very concept of a ‘points based’ system remains irrelevant to the majority of potential migrants.
The statement, however, confirms that the government has taken on board some of the recommendations provided by the Migration Advisory Committee, namely in lowering the minimum salary threshold, and carving out a lower salary threshold for areas where there is an established skills shortage such as nursing. One might argue, that it would have been more beneficial to increase nursing salaries rather than to have a special lower salary threshold, and time will tell whether the UK continues to attract enough migrant nurses to fill the positions required by the NHS. Migrants with PhDs, particularly in STEM subjects, will also be able to utilise the lower salary threshold, though this is not likely to benefit a great deal of migrants – Jonathan Portes of the Guardian suggested that this was “presumably to placate Dominic Cummings” and his drive to populate the civil service with “misfits and weirdos”.
The Home Office had previously stated that the new system would reduce the number of unskilled EU migrants coming to the UK by 90,000 per year. Meanwhile, with the loosening of the restrictions on non-EU migration to the UK, we are already seeing a rise in non-EU migrants. It is not clear what impact the new system will have on total net migration, however it is perhaps telling that the government chose not to reiterate this figure in their latest policy statement.
today the government has published more detail about its proposals, generating headlines such as “Immigration revolution” and “UK closes border to unskilled workers”.