On Monday 18 May 2020 a government minister was asked about the government’s plans for the quarantine regulations about to be introduced and also about the Immigration Bill returning to the House of Commons for its second reading.
The whole interview set against the backdrop of Covid-19 threw up a strange dichotomy in government policy : whilst the rest of the world closed its borders as part of its response to Covid-19 and in efforts to halt its rate of infection the UK government kept the borders open whilst at the same time planning on restricting freedom of movement in to the UK for EEA nationals and their families. There has been an exponential drop in the number of people arriving at the border but that is due to people staying in lock down round the world and not a result of government action. The minister, predictably, spoke in terms of the UK “taking back control” of its borders and attracting the “brightest and best” to the UK. He was asked about workers in the care sector who are, and will be, mostly excluded from the UK’s rules for workers in the UK : presumably because care workers are not considered to be “the brightest and the best”. The crucial role carried out by these workers, many from the EEA or elsewhere, usually at low rates of pay has been highlighted on a daily basis, or at least since the official statistics began to count the deaths of people in care homes. The minister asserted that there was capacity in the UK for this work although the basis for such confidence is not immediately apparent. Most of us have also learnt how reliant the NHS is on EEA workers. How strange then, when we are all asked to clap for the key workers on a weekly basis, that the government is looking at closing down the UK’s ability to recruit essential key workers once we “have taken back control” of the borders. There does not seem to be much in the immigration policy to clap about.