‘Nail in the Coffin of Migration Target’: Tory Govt Cuts Salary Threshold for Migrants by £10k

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The Conservative government has put the “final nail in the coffin” of successive pledges to drastically reduce net migration, by dropping the salary threshold for migrants settling in the UK from £35,800 to £25,600 — with a salary exemption as low as £20,480 for some roles from December 1st.

The government quietly made the change on Thursday as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘Australia-style’ immigration plans, with Oxford University’s Migration Observatory flagging the new thresholds later in the week, according to The Telegraph.

In 2011 as home secretary, Theresa May had enforced a rule that skilled migrant workers would have to leave the country after six years unless they earnt a minimum of £35,800. The measure was put in place in an effort to drive down migration from outside of the European Union, with then-Prime Minister David Cameron unable to stop immigration from the EU due to the bloc’s free movement regime.

Now, that threshold is more than £10,000 lower at £25,600. The figure is even lower — just £20,480 — if the migrant is working a job where the government has decided there is a shortage of British workers. The Migration Observatory’s deputy director, Rob McNeill, called it “the final nail in the coffin of the net migration target”.

“They are acknowledging that the bluntest of all the instruments the Government used to get to that target of tens of thousands has been kicked into touch,” Mr McNeill said, according to The Telegraph.

Migration Watch UK’s chairman, Alp Mehmet, told the newspaper: “This is quite outrageous. It will weaken immigration control further and risks helping drive settlement beyond even the record highs of a decade ago. It will also reduce the incentive for employers to train British workers.

“To make matters worse, these major changes are being sneaked in through the back door with scant detail and a lack of advance warning.”

The Home Office confirmed the changes, saying: “We have changed the salary threshold required for settlement from £35,800 to either the general level – £25,600 – or the going rate for the individual’s profession, whichever is higher.”

Successive Conservative governments had pledged to reduce net migration from the “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”, a target the 2010, 2015, and 2017 administrations failed to hit. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne — a key figure in the Remain campaign — admitted in 2017 that none of his government’s senior ministers had supported the pledge.

Recent years have seen high numbers of migrants enter the UK, with 2018 seeing non-EU immigration at its highest in 13 years. The year from May 2019 saw a net migration of 313,000, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures from August.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ahead of the December 2019 General Election, made no pretence of committing to a target to reduce migration, by dropping the pledge altogether in his manifesto. He instead opted for an ‘Australia-style’ points-based immigration system — minus the migrant numbers cap — which he said would lower net migration.

Migration Watch UK has warned that plans such as dropping the salary threshold or introducing a points-based immigration system without a cap on numbers could result in a rise in immigration numbers, not a fall.

The group condemned Prime Minister Boris Johnson for reducing salary and education requirements which would expose some three million mid-skilled professions currently staffed by British workers to migrant competition from around the world. Another four million British high-skilled jobs are at risk after the government lifts limits on companies recruiting workers from overseas.

Noting the impact the pandemic is having on British businesses, Mr Mehmet said in early October: “The exposure of millions of UK jobs to global recruitment in present circumstances risks seriously hurting British workers. As companies collapse, giving British workers a fair chance to apply for jobs in the UK must be the urgent need of the hour.”

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