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Immigration: Who Do We Let In? - Tonight

Tonight Reporter Richard Bacon in his home town of Mansfield. Photo: ITV / Tonight

With less than four months to go until Brexit, the biggest change to our immigration policy in decades is looming: the end of freedom of movement.

But which migrant workers will Britain need in the future? In a special Tonight programme: Immigration: Who Do We Let In? Reporter Richard Bacon travels from his home town of Mansfield, to the London hospital that saved his life, to find out.

An International NHS

Richard and the Intensive Care team at Lewisham Hospital who saved his life. Credit: ITV / Tonight

In July this year, Richard Bacon became seriously ill and had to be put in an induced coma for nine days. He was treated at Lewisham Hospital in South East London. For Tonight’s programme, he returns there to find out how big a part migration played in his care.

Anaesthetist Dr Mick Jennings told Richard that staff from overseas are a major workforce in the NHS:

We have got over a hundred staff, and a good thirty thirty five percent of those are from overseas... I mean the NHS is a massive employer. Six thousand one hundred in this trust alone. If something happened to strip out ten percent of that workforce, it would be relatively catastrophic for us.

– Dr Mick Jennings, Anaesthetist

But Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, identified that since the announcement of Brexit, 7,000 European nurses have left nursing in the UK.

We are extremely worried about this, because successive governments have failed to train enough nurses, leaving us with about 41,000 vacancies, just in England alone.

– Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing

In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that staff from overseas will continue to have a “vital role” in the NHS after Brexit.

“Bringing Back Control”

The government hasn’t published its immigration policy in full yet. However, it has hinted at what it will contain.

EU migrants will no longer get preferential treatment. Instead, the focus will be on what the government calls ‘highly skilled migrants’ - from all over the world, who they say are more likely to boost the British economy.

The government has been advised by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), who published a report saying that migration has benefited our economy.

Nevertheless, the MAC report suggested that post Brexit, in order to benefit the economy, migrants should earn at least £30,000, unless there is a shortage of workers in a particular industry.

This move may be welcomed by those who have been concerned about immigration and pressure on public services. However, some UK industries and individuals have aired concerns that the £30,000 threshold is too restrictive, ruling out lower paid migrants that they say are vital to their businesses.

Nick Ottewell says he has 110 seasonal workers from the EU. Credit: ITV / Tonight

One of the major areas dependent on so called low-skilled workers is agriculture. Nick Ottewell is a Director at a family owned salad growing business in Kent. He told Tonight that their farm relies on migrant workers from Europe. He said he tried to recruit local people to do the jobs, but it was not a success:

Six years ago we were asked to be a pilot farm for a home office scheme, to take from the local job-centre, And to cut a long story short we had one worker come .. from the job-centre. I need a hundred and ten seasonal workers.

– Nick Ottewell, Director at L J Betts salad growers

He raised concerns that a lack of migrant workers from the EU would lead to crops being wasted.

However, John Longworth, Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave believes the proposed immigration policy would be beneficial to UK born workers.

We have nearly five hundred thousand unemployed under twenty fives in the UK. And a reduction in migration will help them to be employed.

– John Longworth, Co-Chairman of Leave means Leave

A Home Office spokesperson told Tonight:

We value the contribution EU citizens make to this country and the EU Settlement Scheme will make it easy for those living in the UK to get the status they need. We will protect their rights, in both a deal or no deal scenario. After we leave the EU we will ensure we can control immigration from Europe.

– Home Office

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