Will the Gate to the East Close For Good?

As the centre of a previously globe-spanning empire, the UK and particularly London has benefited enormously from the diversity of its citizens who can trace their heritage thousands of miles to some fairly exotic destinations. This has always been a huge factor in ensuring the competitiveness of the UK and particularly of the capital; its ability to attract highly-skilled, trained and educated people from across the planet has meant that it has remained at the forefront of global trade and commerce for more than two centuries.

Yet now, as Western economic pre-eminence looks set to be toppled, with most forecasters predicting that next year, for the first time ever, there will be more millionaires in the East than in Europe and North America, government policy seems to be seeking to put an end to our competitive edge.

As of April next year the Post-Study Work visa, that allows students from abroad to come and work in the UK, will be phased out. In recent years this type of visa has seen a large influx of highly-skilled employees from China and India flock to our country contributing millions of pounds to the British economy during a time of crisis. However, next year this will no longer be possible.

Not only will this deprive the UK of a whole contingent of the most able people in the global economy, it will also mean that Britain’s ability to communicate outside of EU boundaries will be drastically reduced. With fewer students learning languages in the UK than any other European nation and less students taking languages beyond GCSE than ever before, our dependence on our mother tongue in business is sure to hamper our future economic ambitions. With very few Mandarin speakers on this side of the White Cliffs, will Britain be able to compete with it’s below average language competencies and its refusal to allow foreign talent onto our shores?

The simple answer is no. History shows us that economies boom when regulation is loosened, particularly regulation that restricts the flow of human resources. The rapid growth of the USA shortly after its foundation can be attributed at least in part to the huge levels of immigration during the period. Moreover, Britain’s capabilities as a world-leading innovator look set to wane if we are unable to attract the brightest and the best to our green and pleasant land.

However, as ever, politics looks set to get in the way of common sense. Cameron and his government, and indeed any government that looks set to follow, have promised a reduction in immigration, fuelled by fears of foreigners “stealing” British jobs and other general intolerance. Unable to tackle the problem of unskilled immigration from within the EU because of articles 45-48 of the Union’s labour law, which require freedom of movement between the job markets of member states, he and his ministers are having to make cuts from wherever they legislatively can – and if that means slashing the number of migrants from outside the EU, no matter how skilled they are, that is what will be done.