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Immigration and skilled worker visas – the political elite are taking the people for fools.

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Written by Derrick Berthelsen

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time – Abraham Lincoln.

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In December 2019 (just four short years ago) the Tory party led by Boris Johnson won an 80 seat majority on a platform to get Brexit Done, rebalance the economy (and society), to take control of our borders and shift to a skills based immigration policy which would reduce the overall numbers of migrants into the UK. To quote the 2019 Tory party manifesto:

“Only by establishing immigration controls and ending freedom of movement will we be able to attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services. There will be fewer lower-skilled migrants and overall numbers will come down. And we will ensure that the British people are always in control.”

So important was the issue of immigration that in their very first cabinet after winning the election the newly installed Government announced a new “points based” system to prioritise economically valuable skills and curb overall immigration. A Downing Street spokesman said “The new system would “end reliance on importing cheap, low-skilled labour” and bring down immigration numbers “overall”. “

The then Home Secretary Pritti Patel told LBC that the system will “bring overall migration numbers down” while attracting “the brightest and the best from around the globe,” The aim is to “end our reliance on low-skilled workers that are obviously — more often than not — low paid.”

At the heart of the new system was a new and innovative “Skilled Worker Visa” which the Government assured us only people with high skills (skills the UK was lacking) and who had a guaranteed job offer, could take advantage of.  We were told that to qualify the applicant would also need to be earning a high wage (to be set annually per job type) with flexibility allowed for a handful of professions where the skills demand was greatest. For these skills, visas could be offered if the wage earned was only 80% of the required wage (again to be set annually and dependent on urgency of need).

This skilled worker visa would last for five years at which point the visa holder could apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). To quote Gov.uk “This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.” For completeness, having spoken with the Immigration Department, I have been told that the current default position is to accept all applicants for settled status unless there is a very compelling reason to deny.

So we were promised an immigration system where the numbers and type of applicants would be controlled. Where only high skilled, high wage immigrants would be allowed to apply. Which would end our reliance on low-skilled, low paid workers and result in considerably lower immigration overall. So how is that going?

Let’s start with the claim that applicants would need to earn a high wage. The Immigration rules state “You’ll usually need to be paid at least £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour, whichever is higher. If the ‘going rate’ for your job is higher than both of these, you’ll usually need to be paid at least the going rate. If you do not meet the usual salary requirements, and you do not work in healthcare or education, you might still be eligible if your salary will be at least £20,960 per year and at least £10.75 per hour.”

Is £10.75 an hour a high wage? Well for reference, the national minimum wage is £10.42 an hour rising to £11.44 an hour in April. In short, £10.75 an hour sounds a lot closer to the minimum wage than to a high wage to me. And you may have noted that the Immigration rules state that £10.75 an hour is the “usual” requirement.  I decided to look at the skilled worker list outlining the jobs a visa applicant could apply for and the minimum required wage to see what “usual” meant.

A cursory glance at the list of skills/jobs one could apply for and their hourly rates/annual salary requirements demonstrates there are dozens and dozens of jobs where the wage requirement is below £10.75 an hour. Many below £8 an hour. Indeed you are currently able to apply for a skilled worker visa if your skill is “Floral Assistant”, “Floral Designer” or even “Flower Arranger” and your earnings exceed just £7.28 per hour. To put that in perspective, that’s a third lower than the minimum wage.

Which brings us to the next issue. We were promised only high skilled people need apply and only then if there were a shortage of these skills already in the UK.  That this new system would “end our reliance on low-skilled workers” on low wages. However, not only do we have flower arrangers on the list (at £7.28 an hour) but dozens and dozens of other jobs where the skills required are minimal, can easily be acquired or taught to people already living in the UK. Like cake decorators (£9.69 per hour), Baker’s assistants (also £9.69 per hour), Butcher’s assistants (£10.46 per hour) and my personal favourites Stable hand and kennel maid (£9.13 per hour).

Whilst there are clearly some very high skilled jobs on this list. Skills which would take many years to acquire/replicate in the UK. There are literally hundreds of jobs which UK citizens could easily fill with only a modicum of training. So the promise of only high skills and high wage immigration has clearly not been met. But what about the promise to reduce immigration numbers overall?

Last week the ONS published revised figures for immigration. For the year up until June 2023 there were 1.2m new immigrants into the UK. After removing those who emigrated, a 672,000 net increase in the UK population from immigration alone. This follows net migration of 745,000 people in 2022. To try to put these figures into context; in the UK there are only three cities which have larger populations than either of these two years of net immigration. London, Birmingham and Liverpool. In just two years the UK population has grown by roughly 2%. That is equivalent to adding the population of Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester combined.

In case you think such numbers are usual and that the UK has always been a country of mass immigration (as the MSM continuously suggest) here is a chart of net migration into the UK since 1947. As you can see mass immigration is actually only a very recent phenomenon (past 25-30 years). Indeed from 1947 until 1983 net migration to the UK was actually negative. And from 1983 until 1992 it averaged less than 20,000 a year. Even from 1992 – 1997 the annual average ran at just below 50,000 which itself is half the figure David Cameron promised to get numbers below in 2010. Only from Tony Blair in 1997 and especially after the expansion of the EU in 2004 did the numbers begin to explode into the hundreds of thousand per annum.


No, mass immigration into the UK is not an historic norm. It is a recent experiment bringing with it significant and unprecedented social and economic change. And the public has started to notice and do not like what they see. Post the vote to leave the European Union and the promise to control our borders, shift to skilled immigration and reduce overall numbers, public concerns with immigration plummeted like a stone. IPSOS monthly polling of the most important issue facing the UK showed those quoting immigration (before 2015 it was labelled race relations) peaking at 56% in September 2015 dropping to 5% by February 2021. The lowest level since before mass immigration into the UK begun in the mid 1990’s. It would seem that the promise of immigration controls was hugely popular and (importantly) the British people trusted their political elite to deliver.



Yet today, with incontrovertible proof that the promise has not been delivered, polling is moving and moving very fast in the opposite direction. You Gov’s polling on the “most important issues facing the country” has immigration now as the most important issue for 69% of 2019 Tory voters; 68% of Leave voters and 39% of all voters. Even in the midst of economic turmoil and with the health service on its knees, immigration is the third most important issue for all voters. For Tory and Leave voters it is THE most important issue facing the country right now.


When Nigel Farage argues that in the next year or two people will start to make the connection that the reason there is a housing crisis, that they can’t get a GP appointment and that their standard of living is falling is because of mass immigration, I think he is correct.

With Labour continuing to support mass immigration and – after 20 years of the Tories promising to lower it (13 years of which they have been in power) – immigration reaching unprecedented levels, it is clear to all and sundry that none of mainstream parties – controlled as they are by the metropolitan progressive elite – are willing to do anything about it.

Which is why when Matthew Goodwin tweets that if you are a small party trying to break through in British politics right now there are only 3 issues you should be talking about over & over & over again – Immigration, Immigration, Immigration – I think he is correct too.

The Tory party has failed to deliver so much of its (80 seat) winning 2019 manifesto but its failure to keep its promise to bring overall migration numbers down, end our reliance on low paid low-skilled workers whilst still attracting the brightest and the best, may well be the worst. Because it is not just another policy failure. It is another broken promise. At a time when public trust in all of our mainstream political parties and state institutions is at record lows.


The public (rightly) believes their political elite are taking them for fools. But as Abraham Lincoln famously said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Even the Government’s apparent Damascene conversion yesterday – Home Secretary James Cleverly announced that the minimum salary for skilled visas will rise from spring 2024 to £38,700 – will not be enough. Not just because any impact would only be seen in the numbers after the next General Election, but because by his own estimate it will only bring immigration down by c300,000 a year. Meaning (depending on which base you use) an informal acceptance that immigration of between 372,000 (672,000 minus 300,000) to 445,000 (745,000 minus 300,000) per annum is acceptable. To put that into perspective, it is the equivalent of adding to the UK the entire population of Manchester or Leeds each and every year. And that is before we see the fine print which, as I have explained above, is often very different to the headlines. Headlines which, by the way, are notable by the absence of any limits.

Trust is hard earned, easily lost and very difficult to re-establish.  I suspect it won’t be long before our political elite find out just how right Lincoln was. Or to put it another way, I suspect the public will rely on that other age old aphorism – Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.

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About the author

Derrick Berthelsen