With Brexit finally a done deal, Britain has wasted no time in rolling out a new immigration policy that ensures more control over its borders. And it has borrowed the Australian blueprint of a points-system.
Crucially, one of the requirements in this policy dictates that migrants should already have the ability to speak English. The United Kingdom will also begin to close its doors to ‘unskilled’ workers, who typically work in blue-collar jobs, ranging from factory work to hospitality.
Without a doubt, this new immigration policy puts an increasingly high hurdle for any foreigner wishing to work in the UK. However, it’s also rather clear that the policy has been designed to specifically curtail the volume of movement of those coming from the European Union.
In their defence, British ministers have argued that they are simply giving people the Brexit the country voted for. But what of the majority of young people, between the ages of 18-24, who voted Remain? The repercussions stemming from their elder social counterparts are weighty.
For young people living in Continental Europe, this new immigration policy poses difficulties. English-fluency at a certain level is now expected of all hopeful migrants, which means young workers will need to ensure that they are able to speak the language before crossing the English Channel.
Many European youths already make the effort to learn English. But it’s unfair to expect them to be fluent enough to work at a professional level. Without the advantages of a secondary education in this country, or at the very least, before having immersed themselves in an environment where they could directly improve their language skills, the requirement is quite shocking. Currently, Europeans and other nationalities outside the bloc come to Britain to learn English firsthand, with some hoping that this will lead to a permanent future of living and working in the UK. But Britain’s new immigration procedure makes it harder for young non-Britons to achieve this dream when English is not a widely-spoken language in their home country.
The British government has also established that immigrants must have a job offer with a salary threshold of £25,600. As this is the average salary for white-collar, office-level professions, it means that young people working in ‘unskilled’ occupations will likely be barred entry.
The Guardian recently drew attention to criticism from employers over the addition of waiters, waitresses, and agriculture workers to the list of low-skilled labour. Considering the gap this will leave when it comes to cheap labour, typically supplied by the EU, Britons will now be expected to fill this vacuum. This raises the question of who exactly will be expected to do that? British students coming straight out of university? Or perhaps young people living outside the major urban areas? Young British people already work in supermarkets and other hospitality sectors for part-time work. But with this new immigration policy coming into play — and with industry leaders having warned of its significant impact on food processing factories that have relied so much on immigrants — does this mean that the youth will be expected to fill these jobs, possibly even at a full-time rate?
Pret A Manger, a major high street chain, also drew attention to the fact that only one in fifty job applicants were British. Although the warning was made two years ago, the threat posed to the hospitality sector through the scraping of such things as ‘barista visas’, for example, is no less serious this time around. And we should pay attention.
Speaking to the Guardian, Carolyn Fairbairn, the Confederation of British Industry Director General, commented that in ‘some sectors, firms would be left wondering how they would recruit the people needed to run their businesses’.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the burden of filling the labour vacuum will solely rest on young people. But with so many of them eagerly seeking part-time or full-time employment in this fiercely competitive day and age, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that we might be seeing more of them working within the hospitality industries such as care, construction, or food and drink.