Britain’s government has pledged to tighten rules on immigration, as the issue gains political momentum ahead of a general election next year.
In a major policy speech in London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to cut the number of professions which can recruit from outside Europe.
“We favour a tough but fair approach, rooted in a points system, under which we decide what category of skills are to be allowed into this country,” Brown said. “This combines the flexibility and control that is right, with a continued commitment to strong borders and a rigourous enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration.”
Tighter controls on entry visas for overseas students are also being studied. But for the opposition Conservatives, it is all too little too late.
“I think this speech is being incredibly over-hyped,” said Damian Green, the Conservative shadow minister for immigration. “There is no new policy announcement. And what I would like to hear from Gordon Brown is some sort of apology for the fact that over 12 years the government has got immigration badly wrong . Net immigration ran at 200,000 a year for many years.”
The irony is that headline-making “Jobs for the British” protests at an English oil refinery earlier this year targeted an influx of ltalian and Portuguese workers. And, while the UK can tighten controls on non-EU nationals, it has little power to restrict migration from within the 27 nation bloc.