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February 24, 2020

Pick and choose?

Opinion

February 24, 2020

After months of speculation and years of endless debates on the topic, the British government has finally announced the details of its post-Brexit immigration plans.

As promised in the election manifesto with which the Conservative Party won its majority last year, the UK will soon adopt a points-based system, aimed to put an end to “low-skilled” immigration.

Under the new rules, people wishing to move to the UK will need 70 points. To clock up said points, they will need to earn above BPS25,600 a year (20 points), speak good English (10 points), have a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points), and so on. In short: unless you are already successful, good luck with that. (I, myself, am a foreigner in the UK and have been living here for over a decade. But I would still not have enough points to move here now).

The new system may be welcome to those who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum in 2016 - many wanted to reduce immigration and saw leaving the EU as a means to that end. But a points system risks leaving the country poorer - both literally and figuratively. It also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the mindset of most immigrants, either by design or by mistake.

Many successful people in the UK did not already have a brilliant career elsewhere. They came here first and built their fortunes afterwards.

One great example of this was tweeted by London-based journalist Harry Wallop yesterday, whose great-grandfather moved to Britain “nearly penniless, aged 15, from Lithuania. He earned money as a pedlar, selling shoelaces door to door. Speaking no English. He went on to start one of the great clothing brands and Britain’s 6th biggest company, Burton’s the Tailors”.

Wallop’s ancestor is not an exception. According to a 2017 study from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, immigrants are one-and-a-half times as likely to be involved in “early-stage entrepreneurial activity” as their UK-born counterparts.

Meanwhile, research from the analysis company Zirra has found that nine out of Britain’s top 10 “unicorn businesses” – companies valued at $1bn or more – had at least one first or second-generation immigrant in their founding team.

Then there is the analysis from the Centre for Entrepreneurs published in 2014, which found that migrant entrepreneurs had created one in seven UK companies, and are responsible for 14 percent of British jobs.

But beyond these success stories lies an uncomfortable truth for the government; to remain a country that is a proud home to bright immigrants with brilliant ideas, it must be willing to take a chance on foreigners.

For every person who moves here and then makes it, countless others have tried and failed – or more likely, who tried, then realised that they could just lead a normal, quiet life instead.

As with dating, one cannot stumble upon the partner of one’s dreams without putting oneself out there. Similarly, a country cannot choose to only attract excellence. It must be willing to take a chance on people, then get rewarded when it does.

Excerpted from: ‘The UK wants the ‘best’immigrants. Why would they want the UK?’.

AlJazeera.com