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No free movement for low skilled workers

THE GOVERNMENT has announced that low skilled workers will not be eligible to apply for visas to work in the UK once the Brexit process is complete next year.

The will come as a great disappointment to many owners and managers of Bangladeshi restaurants, who were hoping to bring kitchen staff from Bangladesh to the UK to meet a growing shortage of chefs.

There was a belief in part of the trade that it was the EU which was stopping Bangladesh-trained chefs coming to the UK, and that restrictions would be removed if the UK left the EU – “Brexit”. It is thought that many Bangladeshis were encouraged to vote for Brexit on this basis, believing it would stimulate their sector of the restaurant trade.

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Now Home Secretary Priti Patel has dashed those hopes. Free movement for EU nationals – the ability to live and work in any EU country – will end on 31st December this year. A new immigration system will take over, which is generally based on the Australian “points-based” model. Many had seen that as an attractive model, but Patel’s announcement reveals that the goal posts have been set high – so that the system will favour the wealthy.

In the new system, workers will be treated equally – whether they are from EU countries or anywhere else. That’s where the fairness ends. Workers can only apply to work in the UK if they are educated to the equivalent of “A”-level standard. Skilled chefs in Bangladesh are unlikely to have these formal qualifications.

Applicants will be awarded 50 points if they have been offered a skilled job in the UK by an approved sponsor and speak English (again, not something a chef in Bangladesh needs to do – wherever they are working). Becoming an approved sponsor is no easy process, involving a great deal of paperwork.

The applicant would need 70 points to be accepted. Additional points, on top of the first 50, would be awarded for higher qualifications, a higher salary and for those working in a shortage sector.

The Government has indicated that lower skilled jobs should be filled by the 3 million EU nationals who are currently living in the UK and have applied to stay, plus the 8 million UK nationals who are not currently economically active. It expects employers to train workers, as necessary, to fill vacancies.

This is a clever move by the Tory right, including those who are now in government. This grouping had always wanted to resolve the 2008 global economic crisis by increasing the proportion of the UK population which is economically active and generating profits in the UK and for the UK. It is likely that more measures are on the way to make this strategy work – such as penalties for the unemployed and/or those dependent on welfare benefits.

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