Daniel Zeichner, the MP for Cambridge has reacted to the Government’s Immigration White Paper, published today, blasting it as “regressive, damaging, and reflecting the Prime Minister’s continued blind obsession with cutting numbers – even to the detriment of the economy.“
The White Paper sets out the Government’s ambition for what it intends UK immigration policy to look like after the UK leaves the EU. The Government has said that it will focus on skills and end free movement from the EU, but there is widespread concern that it will use salary levels to dictate whether a visa applicant is deemed “skilled“ or not, with reports of a £30,000 salary cap, subject to consultation. The science and research sectors, as well as the NHS, have many jobs such as medical staff, care workers, technicians and research assistants which are paid well below this cap despite these workers being highly trained and skilled.
Mr Zeichner said:
“This simplistic approach, which stems from the Prime Minister’s long-held fixation on unrealistic and unhelpful immigration targets, will not work for Cambridge. It is over-simplistic to assume salary equates to skills, and we risk curtailing our world-leading research sectors by putting off those brilliant global minds in early career positions from coming to the UK. This would also be a disaster for our services industry, and for the jobs which are traditionally termed ‘low-skilled‘ but are actually extremely important and responsible roles, such as carers – we rely on an international workforce.“
“Theresa May has long been obsessive about immigration numbers, and this shows a very one-dimensional approach, which unfortunately will be to the detriment of our country. I’m afraid that reports that she will launch the White Paper at an airport, rather than, say, a research lab, shows that the Conservative party have descended into dogwhistle politics and are further pandering to UKIP’s anti-immigration rhetoric.“
Over the summer, Daniel Zeichner MP and neighbouring South Cambs MP, Heidi Allen, worked together to consult local organisations on what they need from a new immigration system. The organisations, including private sector companies, research institutes, universities and charities, overwhelmingly responded in favour of researcher mobility, and were clear that the use of salary thresholds as a proxy for skills should be removed, with a system that recognises skills and experience instead.
The University of Cambridge told Mr Zeichner in the summer that “Extending the Tier 2 visa route [the current immigration system for non-EU citizens] to EEA nationals, as suggested in the MAC report, would therefore significantly harm the UK’s competitiveness. UK universities are competing internationally to recruit from a finite pool of the best global talent. If UK institutions are not able to obtain these highly-skilled individuals, who are often at the top of their academic fields, then they will go elsewhere, to the benefit of the UK’s competitors and to the detriment of the UK’s global research standing.“
Mr Zeichner will continue to press for fair and humane immigration policy which supports Cambridge’s growth and innovation as the Immigration Bill is brought to Parliament next year.