During David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s Mid Term Review press conference the Prime Minister claimed that on every issue the government had supported wealth creators. However, there is at least one striking way that the Coalition has not agreed to the demands of business leaders. This is the issue of immigration.
Cameron aims to reduce annual immigration figures to tens of thousands. In November, the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry condemned this plan because it is undermining the higher education sector. Cridland argues that it is necessary to drop this target or the government risks putting foreign students off coming to British universities:
“Mr Cameron needs to scrap the idea that the Tory target of reducing net immigration figures to ‘tens of thousands’ can be achieved by 2015.”
He has also insisted that the obsession with bringing the net number of immigrants to tens of thousands is hugely negative:
“There’s just been so much rhetoric that it’s creating its own reality, it’s putting people off.”
Uncomfortably for Cameron, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has also raised such objections:
“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.”
Britain vitally needs foreign students at its universities. Currently 1 in 10 students at British universities are from other countries and this generates £8 billion a year in tuition fees. Additionally, the money students spend in the United Kingdom helps the local economy. In May, 70 university leaders signed a letter urging the government to stop including foreign students as immigrants.
Furthermore, businesses are worried that capping the number of non-EU skilled migrants at 20 700 acts as a deterrence and creates an overly complicated bureaucracy. The Economist reports:
“An annual quota of 20,700 for skilled migrants applying for jobs from outside the EU is undersubscribed. But if the cap does not yet pinch big business, there is much grumbling about how the rules are applied, as well as over the message that skilled migrants are not wanted in Britain. Business folk complain about the expense and wrangling involved in securing work visas. Firms apply and hear nothing for months. There are tales of annoying rule changes at short notice.”
Although Cameron may like to claim that his government aids industry in every way it can, on this vital issue Cameron is certainly no friend to these hugely significant parts of the British economy.