16 November 2012

Boris and business unite to criticise UK immigration policy

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Mayor of London Boris Johnson has echoed concerns voiced by the head of the leading business lobbying group that UK visa and immigration policy is damaging to the British economy.

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Mayor of London Boris Johnson says the British economy will suffer from recent UK visa and immigration changes affecting international students.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has pledged to reduce net migration to 'tens of thousands' by the time of the next election. Current levels remain over 200,000 and as the Government's ability to legislate for the main source of migrants - Europe - the target of the Government’s efforts has switched to adjusting UK visa and immigration policy for international students and other legal routes of migration.

In recent months the Government has removed the post study work right of graduating international students, added salary thresholds for those wanting to stay or bring a partner to the UK and clamped down on educational institutions who have been found failing in their due diligence.

However, international education is worth as much as £15 billion a year to the British economy and the UK is a world leader in the industry alongside the US, Australia and Canada.

The Government's changes have been criticised and fought at each step and now the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Cridland, has said the multi-billion dollar education market is being damaged.

"There's been so much rhetoric that it's creating its own reality, it's putting people off," said Mr Cridland, adding that a 'massive business opportunity' was being squandered by the |Government.

Mr Cridland's thoughts were echoed by Boris Johnson. Ahead of his first trip to India - one of the most affected countries, MR Johnson criticised his party's changes.

"We are losing a massive business opportunity here which is completely crazy for the UK market, which is brilliant at higher education, to be closing itself off from some of the best and brightest students from around the world," said the mayor.

One of the biggest events in the immigration debate to date has been the suspension of the London Metropolitan University's right to sponsor international students and Mr Johnson says the changes' effects are intensified in the capital.

“[The immigration changes] are not in the interests of London and the UK economy. The area where London is going to continue to grow is the service industry…and when ICT companies and banks cannot get the professionals they need to come easily, whether it’s moving around the firms or joining firms, to London, then that stops the economic machine, and it starts being a block to growth.”


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