The Tory Party has been ripping itself to shreds over its Rwanda policy and the issue of small boats. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Home Secretary James Cleverly and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman seem committed to trying to make this dogs breakfast of a policy 'work' (whatever that may mean). There is this notion that once the first plane takes off for Rwanda, all illegal immigration will instantly cease. Cleverly also this week announced a new policy to make it harder for the people we need to keep the economy running, to enter the UK. He's upped the salary threshold for legal economic migrants from £26,000 to £38,000 as he seems to believe that the only part of the economy that needs skilled workers. He's also making it harder for immigrant workers in the NHS to bring families and dependents, depsite acute staff shortages in the NHS.
It caused me to wonder how we managed to end up with a government that understands so little about how the economy works and what drives migration. The truth of the matter, that none of these characters want to mention, is the fact that illegal immigration happens because there is an economic necessity for it, both for the migrants and the people who employ them on the black market. The government very foolishly, in my opinion, made it illegal for immigrants who have not entered with the correct papework to work legally. Just about everyone crossing on small boats are able bodied men, who are coming here as they think they can earn some cash and have a better quality of life. The vast majority of them did not stick a pin in a map and come to the UK on the off chance that things may be better. They know people here and they know they have a prospect of employment. As the government has cut off the legal employment route, they work illegally. This means that not only are they in receipt of benefits, but they are also not paying taxes. For dodgy employers, it means that they can make significant savings. Many work on small scale construction projects, where home owners are quite happy to pay cash for a cheaper job, with no questions asked. Walk past any household being renovated in our part of London and tell me how many of the workers are English born? When I was growing up, the building game was largely run by Irish immigrants in London. As they assimilated and became more affluent and their kids went to University, the trade has been staffed by workers from further afield. It is funny how many right wing Tories, who despise "small boats", that seem only to happy to have their house done up by people who only take cash (no questions asked) and employ cleaners that have a pile of tenners left on the table for them at the end of the shift.
Other areas of the economy that see a lot of non legal workers are drivers for delivery firms, where one person is paid but several people are doing the work. The legal member of the team then doles out cash and takes a cut. There are those that are in detention centres, awaiting judgement/deportation, but many that are deported, will simply just have another go when they are back in France. They know sooner or later, they'll get through.
It strikes me as perverse that the government does not seek to make people who are perfectly able to work and support themselves do just that and pay taxes on it. It strikes me that a far more sensible way to go would be to give people legal work whilst their case is being determined, and make them pay their way. What Sunak, Cleverly and Braverman will not say is that after 13 years of Conservative governments, is that the UK is unable to function without a high level of immigration. After Enoch Powell's infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech, the cry from those on the far right was "Send 'em home". If we did that now, the country would simply fall to bits. If you had a plan to send people living here legally back to a home that in many places has been wiped off the face of the earth, there would be no doctors, nurses, cleaners, or indeed anyone to do the dirty and low payed jobs that we've convinced ourselves are beneath the indigenous population. I was in hospital in August and it was clear to me that the place only functioned due to the efforts of a multi national and multi ethic work force.
Whilst the UK economy is 100% dependent on immigrants to function, the concept that we can accept only those who conform to some arbitary set of criteria, that seems to change from month to month, is ridiculous. It is not the idea of arriving in the UK that attracts illegal immigrants. It is the fact that they have family, friends and contacts here and they have a very good chance of a significantly better quality of life. The reason that we hear many illegal immigrants "simply disappear" is because they have family, friends and jobs waiting for them and they can quite easily disengage from the official process.
A number of years ago, I was given a lift by an Iranian cab driver. We got chatting and he told me that he'd had to leave Iran at very short notice as he'd been a senior official and had fallen foul of President Rafsnajani. He'd arrived in the UK and claimed political asylum. The rules meant that a very well eductated and highly qualified man had ended up working as a cab driver. I was intrigued that, with the UK having significant economic interests in the region, he hadn't been given an advisory job, given his knowledge and contacts. He told me that the way the system works, he gets the same uninterested treatment from officials as people arriving in the UK with no skills at all. Even though his case appeared fairly cut and dried, as he would stand a very strong chance of being murdered if her returned, the whole thing still dragged on for years.
Although his case was no means typical, it made me realise that the whole system is a painfully slow bureacracy. Cases that are clear and cut and dried go on for months and years. Clearly a lot of lawyers are making a lot of money out of all of this. I sincerely believe that the legal industry do not let such lucrative cash cows go quietly.
Immigration will remain high, regardless of planes going to Rwanda, salary cap raises or anything else, until such time as the economy no longer has a desperate need for labour, both skilled and unskilled in the UK. I happen to believe that the vested interests that support the Tory party are far more pro immigration than Labour's Trades Union backers, who traditionally see that cheap labour damages their members terms and conditions. One of the reasons Margaret Thatcher was so pro signing the Single European Act, when she was PM was because she knew it would give the UK access to cheap immigrant labour. When the UK voted for Brexit, I stated that immigration would go up, not down and people would simply come from further afield. This has proven to be 100% correct. I thought more people would come, because they would be even cheaper to employ. That is a very simple trend to understand.
What Sunak, Cleverly and Braverman will not say publicly, is that until such time as the UK has a proper plan for ensuring we are developing the right skills for the economy in the UK, we will have high immigration. Even if we set up a plan to sort things out, it would take a generation to get the economy to a point where it didn't require immigration to function. But the sad truth is that any politician brave enough to say that will be committing political suicide, especially if they are a Tory, as none of their backers want it sorted out and none of the party faithful want to hear it.