Many wondered about the global positioning of the UK after it exited from the European Union.
Recent events have shown there is little doubt that the country has almost irreversibly turned inwards as it seeks to make manifest the promises of the Conservative Party’s mantra of two years to protect the borders of the United Kingdom.
Within the last week or so, events have transpired to show these promises to be a reality and have led many to wonder if we are at the gates of rampant nationalism. That assumption may well be exaggerated but, given the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s recent utterings on all matters related to her portfolio, it is understandable that eyebrows have been raised.
One senses a degree of anxiety in the Caribbean diaspora. Many wonder where it will all lead, and they are now susceptible to rumour and counter rumour.
Miss Patel has stated that the government intends to bring a new immigration policy, which will be effective from 1st January 2021. Miss Patel said, “The object is to end all free movement to the UK, have a policy that is fair to all and remove the distinction between European and non-European nationals.” In short, she said, “It is a policy to fit all.”
The Home Secretary appeared to be in no doubt that the government is on the right path to fulfil its manifesto promises to remove any distinction between nationals and she added that a points system to gain entry is the fairest way. She advised that the policy was non-discriminatory and is the best way to restrict the escalating numbers of immigrants who want unconditionally to enter the UK.
In advertising the benefits to the country of a points system, Miss Patel said it will be so structured as to bring the best, most skilled and professional persons to the UK without much hindrance to them. The inference is, of course, that this category of applicants would be filled by doctors, engineers and many others of their type.
One of the overriding and interesting aspects of the policy is that there will be a general bar against the unskilled worker. Those in this category will not be able to amass the requisite amount of points, and therefore it would be pointless and a waste of time if they were to apply for entry.
Interestingly, the unskilled and lowly qualified who regularly come to the UK and would therefore be barred entry are persons such as restaurant staff, home carers, auxiliary workers in the nursing professions and those who would be classified as doing menial jobs, but it is perhaps ironic that those who would come to pick strawberries or any such fruit have been given seasonal exemption.
Another condition for entry is that a job must first be offered by an approved employer and carry a salary of £25, 000 or more with the applicant being capable of speaking English. Tough conditions for sure.
It is of further interest that those people who carry the onerous burden of caring for the infirm, aged and chronically ill are considered to be less important to Great Britain than fruit pickers when there is a reported acute shortage of persons to fill the positions required to look after this group of citizens.
I do not disparage the significance of the jobs of those who pick fruit, but the reality is there for anyone to see. Of course, the point has been put that the occupation of the fruit pickers does not materially or negatively impact on the precious quotas set by the government. That is a moot point.
These are interesting times in the UK, and the new Home Secretary seems bent on honing a reputation for toughness in the execution of her duties. Her tactics and those of the government are seen by many to be unnecessarily divisive and without long term vision.
Some believe that these draconian steps which will exempt many who live in the third world, a region traditionally renowned for its supply of labour in areas which the indigenous British citizen has shied away from, will, in time, come back to haunt the country when many of the essential services are left unmanned due to the absence of unskilled labour. Are there shades of a Britain of yesteryear in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when a shortage of general labour could have crippled the country? The government would appear to be playing fast and loose with the lessons of history.
Miss Patel has said that many of the places will, in due time, be filled from a pool of some eight million who should and will be trained to meet the demands, but is this a reality or is the Home Secretary being unduly optimistic?
As the winds of change blow, the debate widens and politicians of all parties have taken positions to mirror their individual party’s view. Miss Diane, the Shadow Labour Home Secretary, seems indignant and has reminded the many that the British Labour Party has always celebrated the contribution of immigrants to the country and she pointed out that she does not support ‘these dog whistle tactics’. (A subtly aimed political message which is intended for and can only be understood by a particular group or demographic.)
Barbados and the Caribbean region have long been the beneficial recipients of the broadly open door of immigration over a number of years. However, in the fast changing world of a post Brexit Britain, one wonders what the overall impact will be on these tiny nations.
Allied to this recent development, the questions over deportations, whether lawful or unlawful, hover overhead like the dreaded drone, the yet to be fulfilled promises over the Windrush injustices still linger much on the minds of those affected and the melting pot appears to be approaching high temperature.
If ever there was a need for serious, honest and measured political debate among our people, this is the time. Public protests can be useful and attract the headlines, but thoughtful and practical solutions could achieve much more. We need politicians who will shoot from the head and not from the hip.
There is now no doubt as to the direction the winds of the Johnson administration are blowing. Should we batten down the hatches?
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired Land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and the disapora.