The government’s proposed immigration cap, one of the Conservatives’ flagship policies, seems to be falling apart months before its implementation date. That it has caused tensions within the Coalition is not really surprising. What will most probably kill it, though, is the opposition from business. For example, Anne Fairweather of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation warns of a looming skills shortage in social care. The companies getting ready to bid for public sector contracts will almost certainly want to bring in foreign staff to do some of the work. The conversation will go something like, “Hey Dave, if you want 50 percent off these delivery costs, sort something out on this immigration cap.”
Of course, the biggest firms have already sorted out an exemption. The immigration cap doesn’t apply to in-company transfers, so large corporations can bring in as many of their own people as they want. According to the Telegraph, 70% of in company transfers are from India, from Indian firms like Tata or from Indian subsidiaries of British companies. Indian businesses are already exerting pressure through their government to get the immigration policy watered down further.
The tension between a hardline policy on immigration and pressure from business would have caused rifts in the cabinet even if the Tories were governing alone. No doubt some compromise will be found over the next few months. The cap on immigration, if it is implemented at all, will probably be little more than a token; just enough to allow the Conservatives to claim that a manifesto commitment has been fulfilled.
It was always highly improbable that the immigration cap would apply to the wealthy and influential. That powerful business interests would try to sink the policy was entirely predictable. Remember folks, you read it here first.