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The £38,000 Immigrant: Why the UK Has Got it Wrong Again



Last week, I wrote about Britain's immigration problem. I said Brexiteers were half right. Yes, Britain does have an immigration problem – but the problem is illegal immigrants in hotels funded by our tax. It is not that we have too many EU and non-EU workers. In fact, I argued that we don't have enough migrant workers owing to our NHS and care sector staff shortages.


Of all the people who read that article, Rishi Sunak clearly wasn't one. This week, the Prime Minister announced he is increasing the salary threshold for migrants to £38,000. In other words, Johnny Foreigner isn't allowed to come to this country unless they earn £38,000 or more.


This is complete nonsense.


What on earth are we thinking? Of course, this will reduce immigration, which is the government's goal, but this measure will undoubtedly tank the economy. In doing this, Rishi Sunak is essentially killing the goose that lays the golden eggs - if that goose were called Andriy and came from Ukraine.


The first problem is the eye-wateringly high minimum salary. The average UK salary is about £38,000, meaning Rishi expects migrants to earn an above-average wage. This is unrealistic and incendiary. Hard-line Brexiteers would have a fit if an immigrant with no means of transport other than a rubber dinghy were earning more than them.


Having said that, there is an even bigger issue. Just as I argued last week that Brexit got rid of the wrong immigrants, this plan, too, will get rid of the wrong immigrants.


Jobs dishing out £38,000-plus are not the jobs we need migrant workers to fill. If we're going to be sensible about this, we need more NHS nurses, carers, fruit pickers and bus drivers. However, most of these jobs don't pay salaries that meet this new requirement. So, instead of getting migrants to do these important – albeit often lower-skilled – jobs, we will get Lord Sugarchenko from Eastern Europe and Sir James Dysonakis from Greece, expecting a £5 million salary and a penthouse in Kensington. And that defeats the whole point of sharing labour at all.


In the UK, where Mr Blair set the ludicrous target of 50% of all adults having a university degree, we don't need any more highly qualified people. Already, Russell Group undergraduates end up stacking shelves in Sainsbury's because the banks aren't hiring anyone. So why do we want more highly-paid immigrants when the vacancies are in lower–paid but extremely significant jobs, like healthcare and food production?


Yet again, we have another immigration policy in the UK, which is doing more harm than good. Instead of securing the migrant workers we need, we only allow those we don't need to come here.


True, you could argue that by setting a minimum earnings floor, we're going to be able to kick out those who come here to stay in UK taxpayer-funded Premier Inn hotel rooms. But being the softies we are, we'll probably offer to keep them in hotels until kingdom come.


There is a much simpler solution to this immigration shambles. And it's this. You can come here to work and contribute to our country. If you don't and are just hoping to suck on the dry old teat of our public services, then go somewhere else: end of.


That's how easy it should be to run an immigration system. Most other countries can manage it. You won't get into France without proving you can say 'bonjour' – and you can forget even trying to get into Australia unless you're willing to hide in a kangaroo's pouch. Alas, you can always count on making it into Britain. You don't even need to get in the back of a lorry; just walk straight through the door at Dover, and we'll welcome you with a cup of tea and a biscuit. And we all wonder why we're broke.


As usual, we've decided to massively overcomplicate things in this country. First, we decided to rope in Rwanda to help us out – and what a ludicrous plan that is. Now that's going up in smoke in the courts, we've decided to look clever by setting a precise salary requirement for migrants.


All I can say is this. Don't come crying to me when Tesco's fruit and vegetable shelves are bare because there's nobody to work the fields or drive the produce to your local supermarket. As a matter of fact, you won't be able to cry at all because you'll be six feet under after the fruit and veg shortage gave you scurvy, and there weren't enough doctors and nurses to treat you in hospital.


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