In April 2016 the Tory government are going to begin deporting working people from the UK for the “crime” of not earning more than £35,000 per year. In this article I’m going to run through just a few of the many reasons that mark this policy out as perhaps the most blatant example ever of Tory policy built on a foundation of nothing more than malice and incompetence.
The average wage in the UK is around £21,300 per year so it seems a little odd that people who earn many thousands of pounds per year more than the average UK worker are facing deportation for supposedly being a drain on society. Theresa May’s justification for setting the bar so high is that she wants to reduce Tier 2 migration from outside the EU from around 60,000 per year to 20,000. I’ve had a long look for the official calculations behind these widely cited numbers, but they don’t seem to be available, possibly because they were just plucked out of thin air or drawn up on the back of a fag packet like so much ideologically driven Tory policy.
Locking the side window with the doors wide open
The idea of clamping down on working non-EU migrants to reduce net migration might seem to make sense if you look at the Tier 2 migration figures in isolation, but with a little bit of context the plan begins to look utterly ridiculous. The number of migrants coming to the UK on Tier 2 work visas from outside the EU is absolutely dwarfed by those coming from within the European Freedom of Movement area, and those coming from outside the EU for other reasons (family visas, student visas …). In 2010 the Tories pledged to reduce net migration to below 100,000, but instead they increased it dramatically, so much so that by 2015 they oversaw the biggest net inflow of migration ever (330,000). The idea that deporting a few tens of thousands of skilled migrant workers is going to do anything significant to slow down the inflow is as ludicrous as the economic apartheid scheme Theresa May imposed against British families with a non-EU spouse.
Go away skilled workers, you’re not welcome here!
The idea of driving away tens of thousands of skilled workers while hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers are allowed to come into the UK from the EU is absolutely crackers … unless of course you understand that the Tories are intent on turning the UK into a low-skill low-pay economy to compete with the likes of China and India instead of a high-skill high-pay economy to complete with the likes of Germany and Japan.
Tier 2 migrants are a net benefit to the economy
In order to become a Tier 2 migrant to the UK the individual must have a job offer from an employer who has shown that it’s a position that can’t be filled by a local worker and they have to pay hundreds of pounds in fees just to make the application. Additionally, despite paying income tax and national insurance on their earnings, they are not allowed to claim benefits, and they have to pay an NHS surcharge in case they need medical treatment. This means that they make a very large net contribution to the UK tax system.
The Tories’ own calculations show that this policy of kicking out tens of thousands of skilled migrant workers is going tocost the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds per year! Not only are Tier 2 migrant workers a net benefit to the UK tax system, they’re also good for British businesses. Simply turfing them out wouldn’t just harm the government balance sheet, it will do immeasurable harm to countless British based businesses.
Damaging international relations
The Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) conducted a study that showed that a majority of Australian businesses operating in the UK considered the changes would negatively impact their UK investment plans. The report concluded that Theresa May’s ideologically driven changes to the immigration rules will result in “structural damage to formal relations between the two countries“. After that report came out the Australian High Commission stated that “UK working visa changes are making the country a less welcoming destination for Australians. This has the potential to harm the UK’s image and reputation in Australia and long-term, it might undermine the unique Australia-UK bond“.
It’s absolutely clear from statements like these that Theresa May’s ideologically driven changes to the UK immigration system have the potential to do extremely serious damage to the UK’s long-standing trade relationships with countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
Education and the NHS
The majority of teachers and nurses don’t earn £35,000 per year. In 2015 the Tories buckled under pressure and decided to temporarily exempt nurses and teachers in shortage subjects from the £35,000 threshold. However a temporary exemption is clearly of very little comfort to teachers and nurses considering a move to the UK, because who would spend thousands on visa applications, the NHS surcharge and travel to establish a career in the UK when they know that the rules could simply be changed on a whim by some Tory government minister a few years down the line meaning their profession is no longer exempt and they’re facing deportation from the UK after putting in years of effort (and tax contributions)?
Other countries are already trying to poach the skilled workers we’re going to deport!
Here’s an article laying out the case for British health professionals on Tier 2 visas to consider moving to Canada, where they have introduced a policy of attracting nurses from overseas, raising nurses’ pay and training up more Canadian nurses (as opposed to the Tory policy of driving away overseas nurses, imposing real terms cuts in nurses’ pay and scrapping NHS bursaries to actively disincentivise people from training as nurses).
A double whammy
If the EU referendum results in the UK withdrawing from the European Union and abandoning the European Freedom of Movement project it will serve as a double whammy in combination with the ban on skilled migrant workers. The deportation threats against workers earning less than £35,000 per year will be provide an obstacle to recruitment for British employers, but in combination with a ban on EU migration too it could prove completely disastrous to recruitment to British industries, especially in the high-tech industries.
The idea that untrained British workers can just step in and fill the roles of all the skilled workers who are going to be deported is laughable. In order to take over the positions British workers would need lots of education and training to acquire the necessary skills. The big problem here is that the Tories have spent the last six years cutting university funding, slashing investment in research and development funding and savagely defunding the adult education and training sector.
A sop to the extreme-right
Severely damaging British businesses and the UK economy by deporting skilled migrant workers whilst simultaneously attacking the means by which British workers might acquire the skills to fill the roles is a demonstration of the absolute lunacy of the Tory party, but considerations like this don’t matter to the xenophobic knuckle-draggers this policy is designed to appeal to.
It doesn’t matter a jot to the extreme-right drooler that this policy will cause £billions worth of damage to the UK economy, they’re far too thrilled with the almost sexual sense of pleasure they get at the idea of “getting rid of darkies”.
The price of everything and the value of nothing
The idea that a job is only worth doing if it pays more than £35,000 per year is a perfect demonstration of the Tory mentality that monetises everything. Who cares if the worker is providing social, cultural, technological or environmental benefits that can’t be measured in £s. The modern Conservative is only interested in measuring things by price, not by value.
If you teach kids, play a musical instrument in a world renowned orchestra, design computer software or work in a nature reserve, it doesn’t matter what benefit you think you’re providing to the UK by doing so, unless you earn more than £35,000 per year at it the Tories have you marked as completely worthless scum who need to be turfed out of the country as soon as possible.
Why ban Tier 2 spouses from working?
Aside from the ridiculous £35,000 earnings threshold the Tories are also bringing in a number of other changes to Tier 2 visas. One of the most unintelligible is a new ban on the spouses of Tier 2 migrants working in the UK. This ban is utterly inconsistent with two claimed pillars of Tory ideology. Firstly they claim to want people to work, yet they’re actively banning a load of people from working while they live in the UK. Secondly they love to claim to be a pro-family party, yet this is another example of their immigration rules that seem to be deliberately designed to break up families.
What message does this send to British workers?
Setting the deportation level so far above the average UK salary sends a very strong message to any British worker who earns less than £35,000 per year (the vast majority of the UK workforce).
The message that the Tories are sending is that they consider you to be absolutely worthless scum who they would gladly deport from Britain if only they could.
Malice and incompetence
Of all of the malicious and incompetent Tory rubbish we’ve had to suffer for the last six years (George Osborne’ssocially and economically destructive ideological austerity agenda, Theresa May’s constant attacks on our rights and liberties, Iain Duncan Smith’s campaign of terror against sick and disabled people, Jeremy Hunt’s policy of running the NHS into the ground in order to justify privatising it, Michael Gove’s stealth privatisation of the education system …) this latest plan to begin deporting working people for the “crime” of not earning above £35,000 per year, at a cost of £billions to the UK economy, looks like a contender to be the most malicious and incompetent of the lot.