London wants its own city-specific work visas which will let employees “sponsor” immigrant workers, allowing them to work in the capital even after Britain leaves the European Union.
“Our city would collapse without migrants,” London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) policy director Sean McKee told London’s Evening Standard. “We need an immigration policy that is slightly different for London.” EU nationals make up a quarter of London’s workforce.
The LCCI proposal agrees with London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who already proposed post-Brexit visas for London. And Londoners themselves will probably agree, too–in London, 60% of people voted to remain in the EU, and in some boroughs voting reached as high as 80%. Crucially, even England’s government might agree. “The good news is the government gets it,” Khan in October. “The good news is in all the conversations I’ve had with members of the government, from the Chancellor to the Brexit Secretary to the Foreign Secretary and others in government, I think they get it.”
The proposed LCCI visa would leverage the U.K.’s National Insurance number, a number assigned to every citizen and used to track tax, health, and welfare contributions. Without this number you (theoretically) can’t get paid. The visa would work by giving workers a London-only National Insurance number, which couldn’t be used elsewhere. If the worker lost their job, they’d have 60 days to find another job before deportation (which, though, seems like it could lead to exploitation by unscrupulous employers).
A London visa is at once pragmatic and ridiculous. After all, if EU workers are so important, why bar them entry to England in the first place? It’s almost as if the business community, the mayor of London, and the English government all know that Brexit is a terrible idea, but the country is going along with it anyway.
And yet the proposition is moving forward, and with the support of everyone who needs to be on board it may well succeed. It seems that in future, cities might be better-suited to manage things like immigration, refugees, and other hot-button political topics. Not only would immigrant-hungry cities be able to get what they need while rural backwaters continue to hate foreigners, but by only having migrant workers in places where they are welcome, politicians can no longer use the issue to scare ignorant voters.