Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out, questions why, mere months after we fully left the EU behind, many are already calling for foreign workers to be brought in to fill job shortages, and argues companies must introduce fairer wages in order to fill these job with British workers.  

As we continue to adjust to our new normal outside the EU, we have undoubtedly faced challenges including in the employment market where a number of factors, including the so-called 'pingdemic', have resulted in a shortage of workers in some sectors, for example HGV drivers, hospitality staff, fruit and vegetable pickers, as well as healthcare workers.

However, recent weeks have seen a number of commentators and politicians claiming the UK must open up our new immigration system to allow an influx low-wage migrants from inside the EU to fill job gaps in the affected industries. While there is no doubt these industries have suffered because the number of low-wage workers from EU countries has reduced as a result of Brexit, are we really saying this is a bad thing, which should now be reversed because it is possible companies will have to pay a fairer wage to Britons who have struggled for years to get on the job ladder?

Instead of rushing to bring in more foreign workers, why are we not prioritising training more critical workers to ensure we are more self-sufficient. For example, at the moment the Army is helping to cover the shortage of haulage drivers. This is something which should be able to continue for the duration of a government-led recruitment drive to get more Britons trained to do these jobs. Not only would this help stabilise our economy by getting more people into work and perhaps off claiming benefits, it would also help protect us from this happening again in the future when foreign workers return to their own countries.

Our exit from the EU should provide a key opportunity to reset the mentality of many in this country. Instead of seeking cheap imported labour, companies should be encouraged to take on apprentices, train young people and those who have been out of work for long periods.

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Inside our NHS, the Government should also look at the contracts of those who begin work as nurses and doctors in the UK, or begin their training in the UK. They should be encouraged to continue to work in the NHS for the long haul, instead of training here and leaving soon after for more attractive pay packets and lifestyles in Australia and other countries. Yes, we can bring in highly skilled migrants for areas where training will take years, but we should not be dependent on high levels of immigration to support the basic running of the NHS and crucial industries. Our focus should be about encouraging and raising talent from within this country.

At a time when so many have lost their jobs during the pandemic, it is time to make sure people who already live in this country can find employment or train for new skills, rather than demand we bring in more people who will then need housing and access to our already over-stretched public services.

The situation we find ourselves in creates huge opportunities. Not only can we help secure our own independence, but the reduction in imported labour has helped increase wages and job security for many who have been underpaid and undervalued for decades. We cannot allow ourselves to let short-term issues affect our long-term future by backsliding from our principles.

Included in these principles is the idea of giving help to those in need, another reason why we should prioritise being able to take in genuine refugees directly from dire situations such as in Afghanistan, over allowing illegal migrants to stay – many of whom have had the opportunity to settle in other safe countries in Europe, prior to getting on flimsy boats to head for UK shores.

The refugees from Afghanistan could offer an opportunity to bring new skills into the country, with many coming as families, instead of just single males, as well as hundreds of children who will be ready to join our education system along with adults able to retrain. Of course, if this is to work, then unlike what has happened in the past, we must make sure to properly integrate these refugees into UK culture and avoid creating segregated communities.

This country should have a global mindset as we establish ourselves outside the European Union. However, this does not mean we should now try to convince ourselves an increase in wages and a reduction in our dependence on imported labour is a bad thing which needs to be reversed. Brexit brought about changes and opportunities, but the only way we can reach our potential is to embrace those changes and maximise their benefits.

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