The attempt to control immigration, skilled and unskilled, almost defined Theresa May’s career as home secretary and since.
So it has been hugely important for her that her successors don’t change the regime to ration migration, including the cap or limit on skilled or Tier 2 migrants from outside the EU.
Amber Rudd, for example, urged right from the start of this year to remove doctors and nurses from the cap on skilled migrants. May would not let her.
So the fact that Rudd’s successor as Home Secretary Sajid Javid seems set to deliver on what Rudd wanted is a big political moment.
It is not yet clear how big a moment it is for the health service or private sector businesses that rely on skilled foreigners.
Because the dog that isn’t barking as loudly as an NHS chronically short of doctors and nurses is the desperate problems of businesses, especially high tech ones, getting the talent they need.
The big questions are:
- will doctors AND nurses be taken out of the skilled migrant quota;
- how will the number of overseas doctors and nurses flowing to the NHS be determined;
- and will the private sector be allowed to increase its recruitment of foreign staff by the aggregate number of medics taken out of the official quota?
The answers will have big significance for the growth of the economy and the effective functioning of hospitals.
They will also show that May has lightened up, just a bit, when it comes to her protectiveness over her putative legacy.
Javid’s new immigration approach would represent a huge political shift in the tectonic plates of this government.