2024 UK Election and Analysis of Top 3 Polling Parties Immigration Policies 

Immigration Updates
· 20 Jun 2024
· 15 mins read
Author: Jay Moghal
As the UK approaches the general election on July 4th, immigration remains a pivotal issue shaping the political landscape. The major parties, including the Conservatives, Labour, and notably Reform UK, have presented distinct policies that promise significant impacts on the nation's approach to both illegal and legal immigration.
UK election 2024 immigration law reforms

Table of Contents

Immigration Updates
· 20 Jun 2024
· 15 mins read
Author: Jay Moghal

As the UK approaches the general election on July 4th, immigration remains a pivotal issue shaping the political landscape. The major parties, including the Conservatives, Labour, and notably Reform UK, have presented distinct policies that promise significant impacts on the nation’s approach to both illegal and legal immigration. 

Labour Party Immigration Policy Overview

The Labour Party pledges to reduce immigration levels but focuses more on enhancing border security and revising legal migration pathways rather than curtailing them altogether. 

Conservative Party Immigration Policy Overview

Conservatives continue to advocate for stringent measures, including the controversial Rwanda plan aimed at deterring asylum seekers. 

Reform UK Immigration Policy Overview

Meanwhile, Reform UK, capturing significant attention lately and rising in the polls, proposes radical cuts to both legal and illegal immigration, underpinned by policies such as a migrant tax and the freezing of ‘non-essential’ immigration.

This blog aims to provide a nuanced analysis of the strategies proposed by these parties, focusing on how they could affect UK employers, HR managers, and the wider economy.

Our aim is to help directors and HR managers navigate potential changes and prepare for the implications of different electoral outcomes.

Conservative Party’s Immigration Policies

The Conservative Party’s immigration platform for the 2024 general election is centred on two main pillars: continuing and expanding measures to prevent illegal immigration and implementing strict controls on legal migration.

Conservative party immigration reforms

Stopping Illegal Immigration

The Conservative party’s main strategy is centred around the “Stop the boats” initiative, which aims to reduce the arrival of migrants via small boats across the Channel. One key aspect of this policy is the plan to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they can apply for asylum. The UK’s controversial policy of relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda, as a deterrent, is estimated to cost £290 million for the next year, with a total budget allocation of £400 million. Despite the significant financial commitment, no deportation flights have taken place due to ongoing legal challenges. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that none will occur before the general election.

Impact on Legal Migration

The Conservatives have suggested a new yearly limit on visas as part of their plan to reduce overall migration. They also plan to increase the salary threshold for skilled worker visas to £38,700 and prevent most international students and all social care workers from bringing their dependents into the UK. These changes are expected to decrease the number of skilled and unskilled workers coming to the UK.

Analysis

The Conservative policies could lead to several significant outcomes for the UK labour market:

  • Skilled Labour Shortages: The increase in salary thresholds and restrictions on family members for visas could exacerbate existing shortages in sectors like healthcare, engineering, and IT. This might lead to increased operational costs for companies as they struggle to find qualified domestic workers or pay higher salaries to meet visa requirements.
  • Impact on Public Services: The social care sector, already under strain, may face further challenges with the restriction on bringing dependents. This could deter potential applicants, worsen the staffing crisis in care homes and impact service delivery.
  • Economic Growth: Tighter immigration controls could also impact the broader economy. A reduced labour force may lead to lower overall economic growth, affecting industries reliant on immigrant workers, such as construction and hospitality.
  • Housing and Public Expenditure: On a positive note, reduced immigration could alleviate pressure on public services and housing. However, this must be balanced against potential reductions in consumer spending and tax revenues generated by immigrants.

These policy choices reflect the Conservative’s strategic focus on control and reduction of immigration as a means to address public and political concerns regarding integration, resource allocation, and national security. For UK employers, particularly in sectors reliant on foreign talent, these policies suggest a need for increased focus on domestic training and development programs to mitigate potential skills gaps. The implications for HR managers include adapting recruitment strategies, enhancing workforce planning, and ensuring compliance with evolving immigration laws.

Labour Party’s Immigration Policies

The Labour Party, under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, has outlined a comprehensive immigration policy that emphasises control and management rather than reduction, with a focus on enhancing border security and reevaluating the economic impact of immigration.

Labour party immigration policy 2024 election

Enhancing Border Security

Labour’s plan involves creating a new Border Security Command to enhance the UK’s border management and crack down on the criminal networks responsible for illegal crossings of the English Channel. The funding originally intended for the Rwanda deportation scheme will be redirected to support this initiative. The goal is to strengthen enforcement and prosecution against human trafficking and smuggling activities.

Managing Legal Migration

Labour has pledged to reform the current points-based immigration system to make it fairer and more aligned with the UK’s economic needs. This includes setting appropriate restrictions on visas and linking immigration policies directly to skills shortages in the UK economy. The party supports recent governmental hikes in salary thresholds for skilled visas, which were increased to make the entry criteria more stringent, ensuring that only highly skilled workers can enter the labour market.

Analysis 

Labour’s immigration policies are likely to have nuanced effects on various sectors of the UK economy:

  • Workforce Flexibility: The emphasis on a more managed approach to legal immigration could help sectors experiencing acute skills shortages, such as technology and healthcare, by allowing a more tailored response to specific needs.
  • Business Impact: Labour’s commitment to reforming visa systems could benefit businesses by providing a more stable and predictable immigration framework. This may aid in long-term planning and investment decisions, especially in industries reliant on international talent.
  • Public Sector Enhancements: The proposed enhancements in border security and the overhaul of the immigration system could lead to improved efficiency in processing applications, reducing backlogs and potentially speeding up the time it takes for skilled immigrants to enter the workforce.
  • Economic Growth: By focusing on skilled migration aligned with economic needs, Labour’s policies could support sectors that contribute significantly to GDP, fostering innovation and maintaining competitiveness on a global scale.

For HR managers and business leaders, Labour’s policies suggest a future where immigration procedures might become more aligned with specific economic goals, potentially easing the process of hiring foreign talent for specialised roles. This approach could necessitate closer monitoring of policy developments and more active engagement with government programs designed to support skills development and employment in critical sectors.

Overall, Labour’s balanced focus on tightening security while managing legal migration thoughtfully could offer a strategic advantage in addressing both the immediate challenges of illegal immigration and the long-term needs of the UK’s labour market. This dual approach underscores the party’s commitment to securing the nation’s borders while recognising the economic benefits of a dynamic and skilled workforce.

Reform UK’s Immigration Policies

Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, presents a starkly different vision for the UK’s immigration policy, characterised by significantly tighter controls on both illegal and legal immigration. This approach reflects the party’s broader populist and nationalistic ideology, which has resonated with a substantial segment of the electorate, as indicated by their surge in the polls.

Reform UK party immigration policy 2024 election

Crackdown on Illegal Immigration

Reform UK’s stance on illegal immigration is uncompromising. The party’s strategy includes a six-point plan aimed at completely stopping the boats crossing the Channel. Key measures include recognising a national security threat from illegal immigration, leaving the European Convention on Human Rights to avoid international legal constraints, and implementing offshore processing. This hardline approach is coupled with the proposal to establish a new Department of Immigration, tasked with enforcing these stringent policies.

Severe Reductions in Legal Immigration

Beyond tackling illegal immigration, Reform UK aims to drastically reduce legal immigration as well. Their policies propose freezing all non-essential, ‘unskilled’ immigration, excluding care workers whom they do not consider unskilled. Additionally, the party suggests a migrant tax, which would levy higher National Insurance contributions on employers hiring foreign workers, intended to incentivise the hiring of British workers and reduce dependency on foreign labour.

Analysis

The proposed policies from Reform UK could lead to several significant impacts on the UK labour market and broader economy:

  • Labour Shortages: The freezing of ‘non-essential’ immigration and the introduction of a migrant tax could lead to acute labour shortages in sectors traditionally reliant on immigrant workers, such as hospitality, agriculture, and construction. This could drive up wages in the short term but may also lead to increased prices for services and goods.
  • Economic Contraction: A significant reduction in the workforce might constrain economic growth, particularly in industries that depend heavily on immigrant labour for both skilled and unskilled roles. The contraction could be exacerbated by reduced consumer spending and lower tax revenues.
  • Business Costs and Compliance: The migrant tax and other regulatory measures could increase operational costs for businesses that rely on foreign talent. Companies may need to invest more in compliance and restructuring their workforce, potentially diverting resources away from growth initiatives.

For HR managers and business leaders, navigating the potential landscape under Reform UK’s policies would require significant adjustments. Companies might need to focus more on automation and technology to offset workforce reductions, increase investment in training for British workers, and possibly reconsider their business models to adapt to a changing regulatory and economic environment.

Reform UK’s approach to immigration is likely to resonate with a portion of the electorate concerned about sovereignty and the perceived impacts of immigration on national identity and security. However, the economic implications of such stringent policies could pose challenges for sectors that are currently understaffed or heavily reliant on foreign labour, requiring careful consideration from HR professionals and business strategists.

Comparative Analysis of Immigration Policies: Strategic Implications for UK Employers

The immigration policies of the Conservative, Labour, and Reform UK parties each propose distinct visions for the future of immigration in the UK. Here, we compare these policies to understand their broader implications for employers and the economy, emphasising the nuanced impacts across various sectors.

Conservatives vs. Labour

Both the Conservative and Labour parties agree on the need to control immigration but differ significantly in their approaches and focus areas.

  • Conservative Policies: The Conservatives aim to dramatically decrease both illegal and legal immigration. Their strict policies, like the Rwanda plan and higher salary thresholds for skilled workers, are intended to reduce overall numbers swiftly and substantially. For employers, particularly in sectors like healthcare and technology that rely on skilled immigrants, this could lead to talent shortages and increased competition for qualified domestic workers, potentially driving up salaries.
  • Labour Policies: Labour seeks a more balanced approach by tightening border security to handle illegal immigration while reforming legal immigration to better match the UK’s economic needs. This could benefit employers by providing a more predictable and stable system for hiring foreign skilled workers, aligning immigration more closely with sector-specific demands and potentially easing the process of obtaining necessary talent.

Reform UK

Reform UK’s policies stand apart with their severe reduction strategies for both legal and illegal immigration. Their approach could lead to significant challenges for employers:

  • Broad Economic Impact: The drastic cuts proposed could lead to widespread labour shortages, particularly in sectors reliant on unskilled or semi-skilled labour, such as construction, agriculture, and hospitality. This might force businesses to increase wages to attract domestic workers or turn to automation, which could entail substantial investment and a shift in operational strategies.
  • Innovation and Growth Challenges: For industries reliant on highly skilled immigrants, such as the tech sector, Reform UK’s policies could stifle innovation by reducing the influx of international talent, which has historically contributed to the UK’s status as a global innovation hub.

Economic Context and Immigration’s Role in Growth

Recent findings by the Resolution Foundation reveal a stark reality: UK growth since 2010 has been modest and primarily driven by population increases due to immigration. This situation presents a significant backdrop against which the immigration policies of the major parties should be evaluated. The Conservative and Labour parties’ pledge to reduce immigration might address public concerns but could also exacerbate existing challenges in economic growth and productivity unless paired with robust investment strategies.

Potential Impacts on Productivity and Sector Growth

  • Labour and Conservative: Both parties propose reducing immigration, which could lead to a smaller workforce unless offset by increases in productivity. However, as the report indicates, the UK has struggled with productivity growth, which has been minimal since the financial crisis. Without a clear plan to enhance productivity, simply reducing immigration could slow economic growth further.
  • Reform UK’s: With even more radical cuts to immigration proposed, the potential for labour shortages could significantly impact sectors like healthcare, technology, and construction, which might already be feeling the pinch from current visa regime changes. The report’s insights into the UK’s dependency on immigration for economic expansion could serve as a critical analysis point to question the feasibility of Reform UK’s stringent immigration policies.

Strategic Considerations for HR Management and Business Planning

UK employers and HR managers must consider several strategic responses to adapt to the potential changes these policies could bring:

  • Workforce Development: There may be a greater need to invest in domestic workforce training and development programs to mitigate potential skills shortages, especially in sectors traditionally reliant on immigrant labour.
  • Adaptation to Policy Changes: Businesses must stay agile, with strategies ready to adapt to whichever party’s policies come into effect. This involves staying informed on policy developments, engaging in scenario planning, and maintaining flexible hiring practices that can adjust to new legal frameworks.
  • Lobbying and Advocacy: Given the significant impacts these policies could have on various sectors, businesses might need to engage more with policymakers through lobbying efforts or industry groups to advocate for immigration policies that consider the needs of the economy and specific sectors.

Implications for HR Management and Business Planning

The immigration policies proposed by the UK’s major political parties present a complex landscape for HR managers and business leaders. Each set of policies would require distinct strategic responses, which we will explore in this section.

Conservative Policy Implications

Under Conservative immigration policies, businesses would need to brace for tighter immigration controls that could significantly reduce the availability of both skilled and unskilled foreign labour.

  • Strategic Workforce Planning: Companies should enhance their workforce planning to account for potential shortages. This might involve investing more in domestic talent development and exploring alternate staffing solutions, such as automation or outsourcing.
  • Compensation and Benefits Strategy: To attract scarce talent, businesses might need to revise their compensation structures, particularly in sectors like healthcare and engineering, where skill shortages could become more acute.
  • Policy Compliance: Staying abreast of changes in immigration laws and ensuring compliance will be crucial. Businesses will need to allocate resources to manage the complexities of these legal changes effectively.

Labour Policy Implications

Labour’s focus on managing legal immigration thoughtfully could provide a more stable environment for businesses reliant on foreign talent.

  • Engagement with Policy Developments: HR managers should closely monitor Labour’s proposed changes to the immigration system, particularly the adjustments to the points-based visa system, to better align recruitment strategies with new regulations.
  • Training and Development Initiatives: With a potentially more controlled but stable flow of skilled immigrants, companies might find opportunities to invest in long-term training programs, partnering with educational institutions to prepare the domestic workforce for future needs.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Labour’s more balanced approach to immigration could help maintain a diverse workforce, supporting inclusive practices and potentially enhancing the company’s cultural competency and global reach.

Reform UK Policy Implications

The radical reductions in immigration proposed by Reform UK would create the most challenging environment for businesses, particularly those in sectors reliant on a steady influx of labour.

  • Crisis Management and Contingency Planning: Businesses must consider developing contingency plans to address severe labour shortages. This could include investigating alternative business models or more radical shifts in operational strategies.
  • Advocacy and Policy Engagement: Given the potentially drastic impacts of Reform UK’s policies, companies may need to engage more actively in advocacy efforts, alone or in coalitions, to influence immigration policy in ways that consider the needs of the business community.
  • Innovation in Recruitment: Companies might need to innovate in their recruitment and retention strategies, exploring new methods of attracting domestic workers or retaining current employees longer.

Conclusion

For HR managers and business leaders, the upcoming general election represents a critical juncture. The direction of immigration policy could substantially influence strategic decisions, operational capacities, and competitive positioning in the global market. By understanding these implications and preparing accordingly, businesses can not only navigate potential challenges but also seize opportunities to enhance their workforce strategies in response to the changing political landscape.

As HR professionals look to the future, proactive engagement with these issues will be crucial in shaping a resilient and adaptive business strategy that aligns with whichever immigration policies emerge post-election. This preparation will be essential for maintaining workforce stability and ensuring continued business growth in an uncertain regulatory environment.

Sources

Sky New
Telegraph
Labourlist.org
Reform Party Immigration Policy
Instituteforgovernment.org.uk
Theguardian.com/
Parallelparliament.co.uk

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About the Expert
Jay Moghal
Founder and Managing Director
With over 15 years of immigration law experience at top London firms, Jay Moghal established Rove Legal in 2020 to offer prompt, personalised services without the bureaucratic hurdles associated with larger firms.
+44 (0) 203 146 0900
Jay@rovelegal.com

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