Thank you to everyone who contacted me ahead of yesterday’s second reading of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.
Although Labour acknowledges the need to examine our immigration laws if and when we leave the European Union, we believe that the bill is fundamentally flawed. Our key concerns are that:
- The bill is based on a false conflation of ‘high-skilled’ with ‘high-paid’. There are many vital jobs that are not paid over £30,000 but are nonetheless highly skilled – for example many NHS roles. I know that this is a big worry for many of you as it would be highly damaging to the health and social care sector.
- Our new relationship with the EU post-Brexit will be crucial for our society and for our prosperity. Our immigration system should fit into this. The Tories are trying to do the opposite by outlining an immigration policy before it has any semblance of a new relationship with the EU and bringing forward an immigration policy before the legal, economic and trade relationship with the EU is anywhere near settled.
- The Government’s proposed 12-month work visas would make our economy worse off, lead to the exploitation of migrants and undercutting of British workers. This proposal is fuelled by crude anti-migrant rhetoric rather than the best interests of our economy and public services.
- The bill would give the Secretary of State powers to introduce a new immigration system without scrutiny or oversight of Parliament.
- There is a risk that the Government will roll back a lot of rights derived from the EU without replacing them.
Labour voted against the bill, but we lost by 297 votes to 234. The bill will now proceed to the committee stage where we will seek to amend it.
We want to see a fair future for immigration, based on the needs of our society and economy. Criteria should be rational and based on evidence, not numerical immigration targets.