On Monday in Parliament four Conservative MPs including Gillian Keegan, the MP for Chichester asked Sajid Javid the same question and then there was a brief set of additional questions from them and some colleagues from other parties. The answers show just how incoherent our preparation is regarding our departure from the EU, given that the Government and many people who have called for our departure claim to want to do so because of the need as they see it to close our borders. The starting question was: “What plans he has for the UK’s future immigration system” which Javid responded with:
“On 19 December last year, the Government published a White Paper that set out our principles and plans for a future skills-based immigration system. The future system will focus on high-skills, welcoming talented and hard-working individuals who will support the UK’s dynamic economy and enabling employers to compete on the world stage.”
The follow up question from Gillian was: “Chichester is home to a fresh food industry worth £1 billion, and its businesses rely on European workers. One grower in my constituency reached 1.5 million picking hours last year, and with no mechanical alternative for picking soft fruit, any restriction in accessing labour will curtail growth. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that our post-Brexit immigration policy will ensure that such businesses will be able to get the workers that they need?”
And the answers together were as below, with the one for Gillian in bold and underlined:
“the immigration White Paper does contain proposals to bring medium-skilled workers into the scope of skilled workers and also to introduce a temporary workers’ route at all skill levels…our visa offer for academics was made even more generous last year. Those changes have been warmly welcomed by the research community. We will engage with employers in the higher education sector and others before we determine any future salary thresholds…We are piloting a scheme to bring in workers from outside the EU to work in the fresh food industry, and our immigration White Paper proposed a temporary work route, allowing workers to come to the UK to work in jobs for up to a year at any skill level…. the pilot will test the effectiveness of our immigration system, alleviating seasonal labour shortages during peak periods of production while ensuring that there is a minimal impact on local communities.”
Whilst I am delighted that the fresh food industry is being supported by the Government the fact that they have clearly sent a message to the 512m people who live closest to our nation that the borders are closing to them and then we are piloting a scheme which will be costing money to bring in workers from further afield seems to make no sense at all. Surely it is time for us to challenge this nonsensical approach?