Are we really "Global Britain"?


The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been forthcoming in promoting "Global Britain". This concept considers it important for the UK to reinvest in relationships with other countries 'championing the rules-based international order'. This will therefore demonstrate that the UK 'is open, outward-looking and confident on the world stage.' However, from an immigration point of view, this concept seems to directly counter the promise made by the Government to reduce UK's net migration.

Over the recent months, reports and expert opinions from various organisations and UK Government departments such as FCO; Migrant Advisory Committee; World Health Organisation; and Unesco have voiced serious concerns over the potential negative impact of poor immigration decisions on the UK's future post Brexit. The examples below highlight the concerns expressed by these committees: 

Home Office comes under fire as allegations of institutional racism surface: Written by Bethany Morris, Immigration Advice Service

"Only last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed its concern that the UK's immigration system is 'closing the door' on the exchange and cooperation of academia on an international level. Despite the ramifications of such exclusion being detrimental to not only the reputation of the UK, but the lives and educations of thousands of foreign nationals, it would appear that such warnings continue to fall on deaf ears" - Click here for more

18th report - Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties:  Foreign Affairs Committee 

"4. There is a tension between the FCO’s promotion of a “Global Britain”, and some wider Government efforts to reduce net migration. While the Global Britain strategy is barely being communicated in India, the “hostile environment” message is being heard loud and clear. It is short-sighted for the Government not to do more to open doors for Indian entrepreneurs, tech workers, tourists and students, who offer clear benefits to the UK and often plan only a short-term stay. 

Facilitating the movement of these groups is inseparable from the goal of increasing trade with India. We are concerned that Government policy has been driven by the single-minded objective of reducing net migration, championed by the Home Office, and that the FCO has not been able to play enough of a role in formulating Government policy towards India. 

The Home Secretary has resolutely stuck to the stated Government policy of reducing net migration “to the tens of thousands”. This is completely incompatible with a post-Brexit immigration policy that will allow unlimited numbers of students, workers within certain sectors, seasonal workers, and key workers. This incompatibility must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Government cannot achieve both goals, and—given that most post-Brexit trade deals will require a relaxation of current immigration policy—the Government must be honest about which it will prioritise, especially in relation to India. This has led to a lack of coherence, with policies on movement of people undercutting the UK’s broader strategic objectives for the relationship. Certain decisions risk needlessly offending our partners: something has gone wrong if it is more difficult for citizens of a strategically important democracy that shares our values, language, and history to visit or study in the UK than those of an autocracy. The Government told us that it was not “picking winners” in Asia, but its policies on movement of people sometimes suggest otherwise." Click here for more.

Full Review of the Shortage Occupation List: The Migrant Advisory Committee ('MAC'): May 2019:

"The labour market is very different now from the last SOL review in 2013. Unemployment is lower, vacancies higher and free movement no longer providing the ready supply of workers it once did for some employers. In addition, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the future immigration system. Together these factors lead to a high level of employer concern, reflected in the large number of responses to our Call for Evidence." Click here to read more.

As reviewed in my previous Passle post "An open and welcoming attitude towards international students from the current Home Secretary" there seems to be positive indications that the idea of net migration will be abandoned.  The current Home Secretary Savid Javid suggests that the UK needs to consider a new immigration system, which is more open and accessible to foreign workers.

Hopefully, the outlook of the UK's future after Brexit is brighter than first thought. We can keep our fingers crossed that the FCO's concept of "Global Britain" becomes aligned with the post-Brexit immigration policy, allowing unlimited numbers of students, workers within certain sectors, seasonal workers, and key workers to enter the UK. 

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One area singled out for reform is immigration. The report notes that the UK is losing the global race for Indian talent and has fallen behind in attracting tourists, students and workers.
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