The immigration cap-trap

Dominic Monkhouse, Real Business, 15 October 2010

General Electric recently came out and said that the government’s cap on immigration will damage its ability to do business. As the MD of a UK company, I’m in total agreement.

The cap has been introduced to try and stem the number of immigrant workers being brought into the UK. There has been a lot of talk about this and a lot of opinions – mostly, rather bizarrely, in support of the cap.

I, like most people, have heard a British builder, electrician or plumber complaining that they are losing out on work due to a new foreign outfit that is able to undercut them. I get that – and I get that there could be problems. But this cap doesn’t do anything about this. This cap is all about non-EU nationals, so the people able to come freely to the UK and work for lower rates are not in any way inhibited by this new cap.

What this new rule does do, however, is prevent UK-based companies from employing experienced, qualified staff from outside the EU who could benefit the company and, ultimately, the UK economy.

Far from resolving issues of UK immigration, I think this new cap will cause deeper issues. There is a strong possibility, as GE suggests, that with stringent rules around staff nationality, global companies will remove operations from the UK just to get round them.

There is, of course, the other side to the argument – that UK companies “should” be looking to use UK talent within their businesses to support the British economy and unemployment efforts. Well, I think the government ought to be looking at the problems surrounding immigration, foreign employment and the UK economy in a completely different way. Preventing qualified, skilled professionals coming into this country isn’t any sort of answer. Instead, we need to do something about the immigration of unskilled workers or people entering illegally. We also need to look at the ability for EU citizens to freely enter the UK for work at substantially lower rates due to cost of living abroad verses the UK.

This cap seems to be a complete misfire that has come out of discussions surrounding the issue of immigration – and the actual answers have been lost.


About dommonkhouse

Dominic Monkhouse @dommonkhouse entrepreneur, smallholder, Geordie, kite surfing, snowboarding, dog owning, J109 sailor, pilot, husband, father and runner
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