Angered by UK immigration policy, commonwealth commissioners tell the UK “we don’t see the point of being in the Commonwealth”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration’s (APPG on Migration) roundtable debate on the benefits of commonwealth migration and trade saw an unusual cross-party alliance but surprising anger from commissioners who make up the UK’s commonwealth migrant-supply chain.

The meeting was organised by the Migrants’ Rights Network parliamentary voice: the APPG on Migration. The meeting brought together a cross-party panel of respected parliamentary voices such as Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Conservative peer with a long background in business and finance, and Martin Horwood MP, the Liberal Democrat backbench lead on international development. It was chaired by the APPG on Migration chair and Shadow Housing Minister, Jack Dromey MP, and addressed by representatives from TATA Consultancy, UKIBC, and the Ramphal Institute.

The aim was to discuss why the UK’s immigration policy was frustrating the Commonwealth’s exclusive trading club, an entity which is the envy of some non-members, at a time of economic troubles and need for growth in the UK, and why this was harming the prospects of doing business in the UK and increasing trade with other nations.

The New Zealand High Commission argued that while immigration policy is primarily a domestic issue for the UK, there were particular difficulties with the change of rules under Tier 1. This was a major route for New Zealanders and has now ceased to be a route into the UK. Instead, skilled New Zealanders have to do a “12,000 mile hike through Tier 2” to be able to find their way to their prospective UK employer. This, according to the High Commissioner, was not a way employers were willing to proceed with recruitment, given the level of bureaucracy, this has led to the number of skilled New Zealanders coming to the UK to be halved. The APPG on Migration has asked for further evidence of this from the New Zealand High Commission for reference.

Similarly, the Nigeria High Commission said they were “beginning to question the value of being in the Commonwealth”. From the difficulties of having Nigerian educated and qualified high skilled workers not receiving adequate recognition in the UK, to complicated UK visa forms, the frustrations were there for all to see when the Nigerian representative twice asked whether being in the Commonwealth was worth the trade links and the refocusing of investment and trade on China and the US was a better option for the growing nation.

Refocusing trade efforts on China, the economic powerhouse who continue to grow and attract as much talent and investment as possible, and the US, who in recent weeks have been dubbed “the comeback kid”for reinventing its economy and triggering growth and reforming its immigration system to attract global talent, would be the smart choice for Nigeria and other Commonwealth nations who continue to find it incredibly difficult to work with the UK’s image of being closed for business, and have to address the growing concerns domestically of the rejection of their own highly-skilled and talented workers.