Smart immigration 'the key to success'

The UK can establish itself as a world leader as long as it "doubles down" on green energy, resilient transport and a smart immigration policy, according to a leading tech entrepreneur.

Chalkboard with Union flag and word welcome written on the board
Parag Khana, founder and managing partner of data and scenario-based strategic advisory firm FutureMap and a best-selling author, says it would be easy to be pessimistic about Britain’s future "in this dark and gloomy season".
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Building infrastructure

The progress at the COP26 climate summit have faded from memory, he says, and the Government's levelling up agenda has been downsized with the scrapping of plans for a high-speed rail link to Yorkshire and the scaling back of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.But, he writes in the Financial Times: "As climate change reduces our world to a Darwinian adaptation race, it turns out that Britain is well positioned to be among the fittest — but only if it doubles down on green energy, resilient transport and smart cities."The UK can’t fulfil Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s aspiration of being a great 'green power' unless it builds the infrastructure and attracts the labour force to match."

'Growth-oriented immigration strategy'

He argues that the UK must now engage in a new administrative, economic and demographic strategy, pointing out that, according to the Centre for Population Change, the fertility rate fell to 1.6 last year in England and Wales, and could reduce further to 1.45 births by 2023."Without a balanced, growth-orientated immigration strategy, this could get even worse," he says.Immigration policy, Mr Khana maintains, should be less about numbers and more about luring people to work in a nation that aspires to green growth, healthy demographics and global influence."The UK needs young and able-bodied workers to stave off the economic decline driven by population deflation. Ministers should move fast, before other nations get ahead in the race for talent," he writes."Fortunately, the UK hasn’t had a closed door to migration since the Brexit referendum. Last year, a record number of foreign students attended British universities, their tuition fees injecting much-needed cash into academic coffers."Instead of proof-of-work and a security bond payment, evidence of a university degree is now enough for citizens of many developing countries to work in the UK. With more than a million job vacancies in total, and unemployment last month of below 5%, the UK suddenly looks like a desirable destination for aspiring grafters.

Population growth

"Immigrants from emerging markets have the double advantage of being ambassadors for deeper commercial ties," said Parag Khana. "Earlier this year, the UK launched a scheme allowing Hong Kong BN(O) passport holders to resettle rapidly in Britain and acquire citizenship. Around 65,000 have already applied. Downing Street should now look even further afield with the aim of driving the population to 80 million by 2050, a healthy and desirable level."Mr Khana says that human ingenuity and labour remain the key motors to speeding up the UK’s industrial revival. Without foreign workers performing basic services, he warns that British cities "would look like Naples, with rubbish piling up on the streets".

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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