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‘Your papers please’: is that where Brexit Britain is headed?

SOLOMON HUGHES on the worrying plans that could turn migrant workers into second class citizens

TORY MP Anna Soubry and former Labour Home Office minister Barbara Roche are backing a post-Brexit plan to severely limit the legal rights of migrants, making them get “work permits” from individual employers and taking away their freedom of movement within the UK, restricting them to specific British regions or cities.

Soubry and Roche are “co-chairs” of an organisation called the Migration Matters Trust, which launched the “regional work permits” plan in October.

Soubry, a prominent Remain campaigner, describes herself as “liberal” on immigration and has spoken strongly about the important contribution migrants make to the NHS.

However, her organisation promoting the restrictive “regional work permits” scheme shows how pro-EU campaigners are very ready to compromise migrant workers’ rights.

The Migration Matters Trust’s director, Atul Hatwal, says their “Regional Work Permits” scheme addresses the problem that there are “two Englands,” one which is “hostile to migrants” and another that “is more welcoming to foreigners, supports multiculturalism.”

To square this circle, Migration Matters Trust’s director said migration policy should be devolved to “English city regions, England’s Combined Authorities, regional government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” He argues this means that the government could avoid restrictions on migration that would hit the economy or public services.

But the effect on the migrants themselves would include new and serious loss of rights. The “regional work permits” would be “employer led”: Under the plan migrants would need an individual employer to sponsor their “work permit.” Once in the UK they would have to stay in the same city or region. They would not be allowed to move freely for work inside the UK.

According to Hatwal, “under this regime, where migrants wanted to move between regions, they would need a new permit.”

Migration Matters Trust board member Garvan Walshe, an assistant to Tory lord and former minister Pauline Neville-Jones, explained that the scheme “wouldn’t mean Essex posting border guards on M25 off-ramps to keep more of freewheeling London’s immigrants out. Just as most of a bank’s work isn’t conducted by the tellers at the counter, most immigration control happens ‘behind the border,’ by controlling access to welfare, requiring employers to only employ people with permission to work, and so on.”

He is joking about internal border guards, but the scheme is a kind of internal pass-law. By reducing immigrants’ rights to move around the UK, and by making them entirely dependent on getting a permit from employers, this scheme creates the possibility for real exploitation of migrant workers. If your boss can dictate where you live, and stop you moving to another city or town, then you aren’t in a strong position to disagree with what your boss demands.

Up until now, the vast majority of migrant workers have had the same legal rights as British workers (with the exception of the right to vote: around three million EU migrants work and pay taxes in the UK, but can’t vote in general elections). A small minority have entered the UK on various “work permits” or “employment shortage” schemes, which do restrict them to individual employers. These tend to be in relatively skilled jobs, so there is arguably a lower danger of exploitation than in the wider labour market.

Until recently these migrants could apply to remain in the UK permanently after four years. The government has since been more and more restrictive on those on employer-led schemes. The plan promoted by Anna Soubry’s Migration Matters Trust would extend and intensify these restrictions and place them on all migrant workers.

The danger is it would turn them into “second-class” workers, leading to their exploitation and undermining workplace rights for migrant and non-migrant alike in warehouses, building sites, workshops and shops.

Migration Matters Trust’s director says that “countering abuse of the system” and ensuring “labour standards” are “properly policed” will be a “greater challenge.”

When we leave the EU, determining the rights and working conditions of future migrants will be a crucial stand. For clarity, these discussions are about new migrants, not the rights of the three million or so EU migrants in the UK (the government has promised they can retain their existing rights, although this is not completely settled).

After Brexit tens — or hundreds — of thousands of new migrants are still likely to come to Britain. If their working rights are reduced, working conditions, especially in lower paid jobs, could be really under threat, because of “divide and rule” and “drive to the bottom” pressures. What the “regional work permits” scheme shows is that even liberal campaigners , who have rightly spoken out about the positive contribution of migrant workers , can be among those calling for reduced rights for migrants.

Hugh Sloane, the tax dodger who’s bailing out marginal Tories

Tories in more marginal seats are worried about the next election — and calling on their rich friends to help.

Andrea Jenkyns won the Morley and Outwood seat from Ed Balls in 2015. She won it again in 2017, but her majority is only 2,000.

Jenkyns is clearly worried about keeping the seat because she has turned to super-rich hedge fund manager Hugh Sloane for help. Sloane is funding a “campaign manager” in her constituency. So it looks like she thinks an election is close enough – in votes or time — to start campaigning now. Sloane is paying month by month: so far he has paid £5,175 to cover her “campaign manager” for mid-July to September.

Sloane founded the hedge fund “Sloane Robinson,” where he still serves as a partner. According to the Sunday Times Sloane has a £175m fortune.

He is already big Tory donor, but he doesn’t live in Morley and Outwood — which is in the Leeds/Wakefield area. Sloane has, as far as I know, a very nice house in Gloucestershire, about 150 miles away.

Sloane likes funding Tories, but doesn’t like paying taxes. In 2012 Sloane Robinson, the company he founded, was ordered by a tax tribunal to pay £13m in unpaid tax and national insurance contributions to HMRC. The taxman argued that the tax was avoided in a scheme that was a “mechanism for delivery of bonuses” of £24m to Mr Sloane and three other directors.

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