THE DEFINING moment of the 2016 Brexit referendum was when the No campaign accepted the advice of Nigel Farage and framed their campaign around how a no vote would help end ‘unwanted’ migration to the UK, conflating the movement of labour with those seeking asylum.
In the last decade, migration has gone from a marginal political issue to mainstream UK politics, fuelled by the right-wing London papers, writes Jonathan Edwards MP.
The Tories – inevitably – jumped on the growing bandwagon whilst Labour cravenly decided to pander to anti-migration rhetoric in the hope of winning marginal voters.
Gordon Brown’s ‘British jobs for British workers’ strategy and Miliband’s ‘Controls on Immigration’ mugs allowed the conversation to become about irrational numbers rather than developing a strategic and compassionate migration policy.
They legitimised the disgusting ‘Go Home’ ad-vans of Theresa May and the vile politics of Farage and his political gangsters.
What was lost on Westminster politicians and the British media was that young migrant workers coming to the UK were vital to economic growth in the British State, especially after the great financial crash.
The reality is that the UK has an ageing population.
In straightforward terms, such demographics lead to increased liabilities in health and care costs and less revenue in terms of wealth creation.
In Wales, our situation is exacerbated as our young people leave to seek economic opportunities and older people move in to enjoy their retirement.
The UK, and Wales in particular, therefore needs more young people.
The uncomfortable fact for British nationalists is that many of the critical jobs in our society are undertaken by migrants – be it health and care workers, HGV drivers, agricultural workers, or food (especially meat) processors.
Less than a year since access to these workers was cut via the terms of the hardest of Brexits demanded by the British Government, supply chains across the economy are collapsing.
Exacerbated by the pingdemic, we are now heading towards a crisis point.
Statistics collected by the Confederation of British Industry show that this month, stock levels in the UK are on average 21% lower than expected sales, the lowest since records began in 1983.
Supermarket chiefs have warned that they are facing unprecedented food shortages.
That raises the worrying prospect of food price inflation down the line.
Our poultry industry is particularly vulnerable to post-Brexit migration rules, given that 60% of the workforce come from the EU.
In a letter to the UK Government, the British Poultry Council raised concerns that staffing pressures have forced chicken producers to cut weekly supply by up to 10%.
It is estimated that the supply of turkeys this Christmas could be reduced by a fifth.
Further concerns are that the new checks on EU drivers coming into the UK from October will worsen these issues.
Those additional frictions to trade and restrictions on the movement of labour imposed by Brexit are why I supported retained membership of the Customs Union and Single Market.
In recent months, I have called for far closer alignment with the Single Market, starting with an urgent veterinary agreement sanitary and phytosanitary rules.
If these issues aren’t addressed, even non-vegans will be dining on roasted cauliflower this Christmas.
The pressure on supply chains is also hitting other vital sectors.
The costs of materials in the building sector have soared whilst medical research labs and parts of the health service face delays in processing work, halting progress in research projects and reducing access to blood tests.
Urgent action is required to address these issues.
Those professions like lorry drivers, meat processors and care workers with an obvious lack of workers should be added to the Shortage Occupational List so that businesses can recruit internationally.
The UK Government should add more sectors to its Skilled Migrants list.
In this regard, as migration policy is reserved to Westminster, Wales is once again left at the mercy of the London incompetents. Their unworkable approach is threatening Welsh economic prosperity.
The Welsh Government should be able to add occupations to the Shortage Occupation List and the Skilled Migrants list so that our businesses and public services don’t face skills shortages.
Like Quebec within Canada, Wales should set its own migration targets to meet our social and economic needs.
As I detailed in my article last week, the current situation in Afghanistan also serves as a reminder that the UK Government’s cruel migration policies also undermine the Welsh Government’s ambition of being a nation of sanctuary for refugees.
Despite not currently having control over migration, the Welsh Government has a role to play.
It should have an overarching aim of stopping the brain drain of our young.
This requires intervention on a whole range of issues, not least on affordable housing.
Regrettably, moribund Labour in Wales shows a meagre interventionist urge to grips with the significant challenges we face.
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