Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column: Immigration system should be firm, fair and help the economy

In less than one year, for the first time in decades, the UK will have full control over who comes to this country and how our immigration system operates.

From January 1st 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally with the number one priority being the skills a person has to offer. Photo: Getty
From January 1st 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally with the number one priority being the skills a person has to offer. Photo: Getty

This is a unique opportunity for us to craft an immigration system which is firm, fair and contributes to a strong economy.

That’s why I am working with government to deliver on the commitment I made during the election to introduce a new points-based system; allowing us to radically change our approach and reduce levels of immigration to sustainable levels.

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So, from January 1st 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally with the number one priority being the skills a person has to offer and not where they come from.

As freedom of movement ends, we can focus our efforts on attracting those with the skills and talents we need from around the world: scientists, engineers, doctors and other highly skilled workers.

And we should also remember that free movement for European workers has had an impact on wage growth. It has allowed some employers to rely on low pay workers, brought in from elsewhere.

We need to shift the focus away from that and instead concentrate our efforts on the investments that can be made in technology, advanced methods of manufacturing and greater automation.

Those developments will help to turn our businesses into the most competitive in the world and the new points-based system is part of that: supporting the creation of a high-wage, high-productivity, high-skills economy.

And that can only be a positive step for us in Burnley.

The immigration rules are only one part of the solution though.

It is also important that we develop a robust border system that allows us to count the number of people coming in and going out of our country, and pre-screen people before they travel.

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It is simply not right that we cannot do either of those already.

Delivering on that will give us a much better ability to ensure we do not allow those with criminal records to come to this country and take advantage of the system, delaying deportations for months if not years.

It is also worth ending on the process for existing EU nationals living in the UK, to offer full reassurance. This system does not replace the EU Settlement Scheme which opened in March last year and already over 3.2 million people have applied under that scheme.

Your status will not change and if you are eligible and haven’t yet applied, please do so.