Home secretary Sajid Javid pledged the Tories would “get control over our borders” and that freedom of movement would end “deal or no deal”.
The proposals in the Immigration white paper, published on Wednesday, will make it harder for migrant workers to come to live, work and study in Britain. The new racist rules would be phased in from 2021.
The proposals divide workers between “skilled” and “unskilled".
EU migrants deemed to be “skilled” would have to apply for a five-year work visa. The proposals would be harsher to “unskilled” workers, who would only be able to apply for a temporary one-year work visa.
The one-year visa is a particularly brutal idea. Workers would be shipped in for the benefit of businesses, but denied the right to settle, access public funds, or bring in their family members.
They would then be expelled.
It is a racist recipe for a section of workers to be regarded as “foreigners” who have been grudgingly allowed into Britain to be exploited but who deserve to be treated as second class.
And if EU migrants wanted to come in on a “family visa”, their British partner or parent would have to meet a minimum £18,600 income threshold.
Yet super rich “investors” and “entrepreneurs” would be able to get around the maximum-stay rules through specialist visa arrangements.
The white paper also leaves open the possibility of a £30,000 minimum income threshold for EU migrants applying for jobs in Britain. Migrants from outside of the EU are already forced to meet this requirement.
Some 76 percent of EU nationals working in Britain earn less than £30,000 a year. This will include many of the 20,276 nurses and health visitors and 14,427 clinical support staff without whom the NHS wouldn’t run.
Extending the £30,000 threshold cap has caused kickback from sections of big business, bosses’ associations and their allies in the Tory party. So the white paper said the government “will engage businesses and employers as to what salary threshold should be set”.
Theresa May had hoped to save her doomed Brexit deal by uniting the Tories around racist attacks on migrants.
But the Tories rowed over the proposals in the white paper—already delayed since last year—up until its publication. It is another sign of May’s weakness.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott attacked the Tories’ racist scapegoating. “The Tories are using crude anti-migrant rhetoric to try to cover up for their abject failure of managing the economy and the Brexit negotiations,” she said.
But Labour’s proposals for “fair and managed immigration” after Brexit don’t go much further than big business or guarantee migrants’ rights. They still split migrants between high and low skilled workers.
Abbott added, “The government is not as it wrongly claims using skills-based criteria to meet the needs of our economy and our society.”
Splitting migrant workers between higher and lower skilled workers stokes working class division and makes it harder to fight the Tories and bosses. The Labour Party should defend all migrants, not just those with skills that the bosses want to use at a particular point.
The debate about migration must not be couched in terms of what’s best for business. It should be about what’s best for working class people whether born in Britain or elsewhere.
Vast amounts of money and capital can move around the world with the click of a mouse. Why can’t workers have the right to follow it?
Even the research which the government says it used for its white paper shows that migrants don't hit wages or jobs.
We need stronger trade unions, not stronger laws against migrants.
Anti-racists should fight to defend and extend freedom of movement.