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Why is immigration at record levels?

Migrants rescued by Border Force.  Record numbers trying to make the Channel Crossing are dwarfed by the legal immigration being encouraged by the government. Photo Sean Aidan Calderbank/shutterstock.com.

The never-ending rise in the number of people migrating to Britain provides the clearest evidence that Brexit is being hollowed out from within, including by people who appeared to be in favour of it…

It was late August, and the Conservative party leadership election was approaching its climax. Blink and you could have missed the release of official statistics showing that in the year to June 2022 a record number of visas – a total of 1.1 million – had been issued to people to live in Britain.

And that, as an article in the Daily Telegraph pointed out, is an astonishing 70 per cent higher than at the time of the general election of 2019, where the winners pledged to bring immigration under control.

Instead, we have had home secretaries like Priti Patel grandstanding over illegal immigration while issuing legal visas hand over fist.

Some things never change. Every government this century has been addicted to migration, including Labour (see Box). Britain, they say, lacks skilled workers – or for that matter unskilled workers – and the only solution is to import them.

Whether that was true or not, importing labour on a large scale has always gone down well with the employers, because it saves them having to train people and as importantly tends to lower wage rates as well.

In the year ending June 2021 – Covid-19 notwithstanding – net migration into Britain was 239,000. That’s higher than it was in 2015, the year that the decision was taken to hold a referendum on membership of the EU.

No cap

During her campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, Liz Truss was a little coy about migration. She made some commitments to address illegal immigration but explicitly rejected a cap on legal migration.

In office as prime minister, Truss went of her way to increase the number of legal migration routes into Britain. She is, of course, a paid-up member of the global finance capital supporters club. She and her fellow free-market fanatics see any restriction on the free flow of capital and labour as an abomination (which is probably why she voted to stay in the EU).

Truss, of course, has now gone. But don’t expect much in the way of change from Rishi Sunak.

‘Truss has now gone, but don’t expect much in the way of change from Sunak…’

Many in the Conservative Party were happy to allude to the problems of the free movement of labour during the 2016 referendum campaign. What they kept silent was their belief that it was wrong to restrict free movement just to the European Union. They see the whole world as a reserve army of workers.

So, for example, the tide of doctors emigrating from sub-Saharan Africa has swelled, creating a brain drain that African countries can ill afford. Press coverage in Nigeria, for example, details how 233 Nigerian doctors moved to Britain in 2015. The figure for 2021 is four times as high, according to Uche Rowland, president of the Nigerian Medical Association.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has a ratio of one doctor to every four or five thousand patients, according to the registrar of the country’s Medical and Dental Council. The official World Health Organization guideline is one to 600.


Overall, according to a report from the UK General Medical Council published in October, more doctors trained abroad are now joining the NHS than doctors trained here. This reliance on doctors from overseas “put healthcare systems in a precarious position”, it says.

That’s a reference to Britain’s healthcare systems. What the report fails to address is the damage inflicted on the healthcare systems of other countries.

Doctors are planning to ballot in January next year for industrial action on their call for salaries to be restored to match those of 2008 in real terms. According to the British Medical Association, doctors’ salaries have slumped in real terms by over a quarter – 26.1 per cent.

How has the NHS managed to maintain numbers in the face of such a deterioration in pay? Some will seek to deny it, but a large part of the reason lies in the wholesale importation of medical staff from countries with lower wages.

Still more seek to deny the impact of what is in effect the free movement of medical staff into Britain from any country in the world. The shocking statistics from Nigeria are echoed all across the developing world.

And not just the developing world. Central and eastern Europe are also being stripped of their medics. After Romania joined the EU, doctors flooded out of the country. In just three years, between 2011 and 2014, the number of doctors working in Romanian hospitals fell by a third, devastating services for the population left behind.

To get some idea of how keen the British establishment is to open borders ever wider, look at the sacking of Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Ostensibly this was about sending an email from her private account. In reality it was her opposition to more immigration from India as part of the free trade agreement negotiations.


India reacted furiously – and predictably – because its principal demand in the negotiations is for so-called Mode 4 access for Indian companies. Mode 4, a term that came into being as part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), would allow Indian companies to move staff to Britain under Indian terms for periods of up to three years. It could even cover Indian self-employed workers providing services to Indian companies.

Crucially, Mode 4 applies to all sorts of workers – skilled and unskilled, specialised or not, in shortage occupations or not. So it tends to undercut any kind of nationally agreed immigration policy.

This is precisely what Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, told the TUC Congress in 2011 when he successfully moved a motion opposing a free trade agreement with India. Workers in Britain, he said, had suffered from work being outsourced to India. “Now the EU/India trade deal will allow the ‘insourcing’ of Indian workers and drive down wages even further,” he said.

Part of Brexit, Braverman told The Spectator, “was actually about weaning employers off foreign labour”. And she went on, “I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit.”

None of that should be controversial – most people in Britain would agree with her on that, whatever they think personally about Brexit or migration – but for the government it was a sacking offence.

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