Brexit Was Expected to Slash Immigration. Instead It Hit a Record. | Kanebridge News
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Brexit Was Expected to Slash Immigration. Instead It Hit a Record.

U.K. government has allowed in more students, higher-skilled workers and families fleeing Ukraine and Hong Kong

By DAVID LUHNOW
Fri, May 26, 2023 8:51amGrey Clock 4 min

LONDON—When the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in 2016, many backers of Brexit hoped the move would cut immigration by ending the right of EU residents to move here freely, a growing trend that some Britons felt was taking jobs away from locals.

Instead, immigration has risen to a record high, as growing numbers of migrants from non-European countries have outstripped a sharp decline in those from the EU. Though the ruling Conservative Party has repeatedly pledged to cut migrant numbers post-Brexit, it has instead let in more in a bid to boost stagnant economic growth.

Data released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics showed that net migration during 2022 rose by 606,000, the largest increase on record. The figures don’t include migrants who arrived illegally on boats across the English Channel, the number of whom surged 60% last year to a record of about 45,000.

“Numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that, and I want to bring them down,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Thursday.

The U.K. experience illustrates that even if industrialised nations want to curb migration, and take drastic steps to do so, they can come under pressure to allow it to avoid economic damage from labor shortages. In the U.K., the labor force is now smaller than it was pre pandemic, and some industries have complained they can’t find enough workers.

It also underscores the political headache this trade-off presents. Thursday’s immigration numbers elicited criticism among some Conservative Party lawmakers, who said voters wanted this influx brought down. Sunak’s government announced new restrictions this week on how many family members visa-holding students could bring to the country. Polls show that Britons have mixed views on whether migrants are a boon or not, but they put a lot of weight on whether the government is seen to be controlling the flow of people into Britain.

Contributing to the rise was the granting of humanitarian visas to some 300,000 people from Ukraine following the Russian invasion and from Hong Kong amid growing political repression in the former British colony. But it was also fuelled by a sharp rise in visas for students and workers from non-EU countries. About 136,000 visas were granted to students’ families in 2022, an eightfold increase from 2019.

Most economists agreed that Brexit would liberalise trade with the rest of the world but raise trade barriers with the EU, Britain’s largest trade partner, and that the net economic effect would be negative. Most economists also expected that greater migration from the rest of the world wouldn’t be enough to compensate for the decline in European migrants, another net negative, said Jonathan Portes, an economist at King’s College London who tracks immigration.

“We were right about the first part and wrong about the second,” he said. “We were right about the basic economics, but a policy that what we thought would be a modest liberalisation [of migration with the rest of the world] has turned out to be de facto quite a significant liberalisation” he said.

Whether the increase in numbers is part of a longer-term trend is still too early to tell, said Madeleine Sumption, the director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. Many of the students who have arrived in the U.K. will eventually leave and there will likely be less migration from Ukraine and Hong Kong in coming years. That could push down the numbers toward the longer-term average of about 200,000 to 250,000 a year.

Before Brexit, any EU national had the right to settle and work in the U.K. During the referendum, the “Leave” campaign said the U.K. should have more control over who entered the country. After voting to quit the EU, the U.K. government in 2021 introduced a new immigration system that only allowed in people who met certain criteria—such as being paid 26,200 pounds a year, equivalent to $32,400, or having certain levels of qualifications. This system was aimed at avoiding a glut of low-paid workers into the U.K., which had fueled the backlash against immigration, while encouraging companies to invest more in their workforces and increase pay.

In 2022, total long-term immigration, measured as anyone who stays for longer than a year, was estimated at around 1.2 million. Of that total, 925,000 were from non-EU nations.

Even now, as the government has allowed more visas for higher-skilled jobs from doctors to bankers, it has tried to resist letting in lower-skilled workers.

“What they’re not willing to do, by and large, is open up to low-wage jobs, which previously had been done by EU workers,” said Brian Bell, chair of the U.K.’s Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government. It also meant that EU workers no longer got preferential access to the U.K., vastly increasing the influx from countries such as India.

This new system, however, was implemented just as a worker shortage and high inflation started to take hold during the pandemic. The U.K. is the only major Western economy whose workforce is still smaller than it was pre pandemic, due to a combination of long-term illness, lower immigration from Europe and people taking early retirement. The Bank of England said those shortages have stoked inflation as companies have been forced to increase wages to attract workers, while other companies simply can’t grow because they can’t find enough workers.

What is clear is that illegal migration has an impact on public opinion. The U.K. government has focused on stopping illegal migration, largely in the form of small-boat crossings from France. Sunak has repeatedly pledged to clamp down on this and has signed a deal with France to help bust smuggling rings. The government is also threatening to deport migrants who arrive illegally to the African country of Rwanda. This policy has so far been blocked by the courts.



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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