Rishi Sunak's immigration promise is coming back to hit him on the head, says Nigel Nelson

Nigel Nelson

'The error in copying Australia on immigration is that we’re not comparable countries'

GB News
Nigel Nelson

By Nigel Nelson

Published: 17/04/2023

- 14:00

Updated: 17/04/2023

- 15:23

The points-based immigration system is not working as well as hoped

If you speak English give yourself 10 points. If you are an egghead with a PhD add another ten - although oddly a university place to swot for one turns this egg on its head because it scores five times more marks than having the doctorate in the first place.

Confused? No matter. Keep going. If you’re happy to work for £25,600 a year that’s 20 points. A firm job offer adds another twenty.

Congratulations. You’ve just notched up more points than the minimum 70 needed to make you eligible to live in the UK.

This Australian-style points system is the safe and legal route trumpeted by Suella Braverman for economic migrants to set up home in Britain.

Suella Braverman frowning

Suella Braverman has hailed the Rwanda policy but no one has been deported yet


It might be complicated but it’s a hell of lot safer than trying to cross the Channel in a flimsy dinghy and avoids the risk of ending up in Rwanda. Perhaps the Home Secretary should trumpet it more.

How’s the Rwanda gimmick going, Suella? It has been a year since removals to Africa were announced in a bid to win local election votes and after £120million spaffed up the wall the number of asylum seekers transferred there is precisely...zero. So not many votes in that for next month’s local elections.

The points-based immigration system is not working as well as hoped either because despite the UK’s tight jobs market seven in ten low skilled EU workers don’t make the grade which hits our much needed supply of care assistants and catering staff.

Yet these are just the kind of people Britain is crying out for. We have plenty of foreign football managers but not enough fruit pickers. One in ten vacant care jobs need filling and we’re going to need more not fewer. The number of people aged over 85 will double from 1.6 million to 3.2 million over the next 25 years. In 50 years it will treble. Yet last year more EU workers left the UK than arrived.

High-flying overseas scientists, engineers, and academics are always welcome, but a quantum physicist or analytical chemist is not going to mop floors or wipe bottoms in a nursing home. Neither are the bricklayers, masons, roofers, carpenters, joiners and plasterers added to the occupation shortages list last month.

The error in copying Australia is that we’re not comparable countries. Australia is big with a small population while Britain is small with a big one so our needs are different. That’s why Theresa May dismissed this idea as unworkable in 2010 when she was Home Secretary.

HGV drivers, for instance, were bizarrely classified Down Under as unskilled even though driving a 44 ton juggernaut is no job for an amateur. In 2002 hairdressing was a skilled job in Australia while window fitting was not. Twelve years later it was the other way round. Had cutting hair become easier in that time or putting glass into holes harder?

No, it was because by 2018 Australia had too many crimpers and not enough window workers, and by changing this peculiar criteria they adjusted the intake.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak is discovering the problems of over-promising on immigration


Net migration into the UK reached a record high last year of more than 500,000. But that was mostly because we fulfilled are obligations to take in 144,600 Ukrainians, 144,000 Hong Kongers and 23,000 Afghans. For the most part they have settled in nicely and the figures will be much lower this year.

But it is unrealistic to expect it will ever fall to the tens of thousands the Tories periodically promise. Britain will always need foreign workers, and the trick is to design a system so we only get the ones we want. A cool hard look at how best to do that is being stymied by concentrating on small boat crossings.

And Rishi Sunak has even rowed back on his pledge to halt those by the general election.

The PM is learning that rash promises on migration can, like an Australian boomerang, come straight back at you.

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