*** DEBUG END ***

Paul Vallely: Immigration lets the economy to function

11 November 2022

Brexit has created staff shortages across the UK, says Paul Vallely


“STAFF wanted,” the sign said. We saw it even before we saw the name of the hotel — the first that we encountered as we arrived in the Lake District for our autumn break. It was not a one-off.

The Lakes are one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations. But they are also home to a resident population of affluent middle-class folk who have retired from all over the UK on final-salary pensions. On one 20-minute drive with friends who live near Windermere, we passed no fewer than five Michelin-starred restaurants. They are open all year round, not just in the summer.

Today, however, they are encountering a problem of a different kind. Many pubs and restaurants here are currently open only three or four days a week, because they cannot get the staff. The pub in our village is closed until April. In those that are open, staff are run off their feet, because there are not enough of them to manage the demands of the customers crowding into those places that are open all week round.

Once, these places were staffed plentifully by people from Eastern Europe, but Brexit has sent them all packing. Hospitality is not the only sector of the economy which is suffering as a result. There is a labour shortage in farming, construction, care homes, and the NHS — in jobs that native Brits are clearly reluctant to take up.

This is the other end of the telescope of the “invasion” of migrants on small boats which the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, addresses here. The moral imperatives for a more humane approach to immigration are clear. But there are economic arguments, too. The fact is that immigration is essential to the current functioning of the British economy.

Our current Government is caught in a cleft stick on this. Anti-immigration sentiment was a huge driver of Brexit, and continues to animate many Conservative supporters — even though 18 other European countries accept more migrants per capita than Britain does. Recent polling by the political scientist Matthew Goodwin shows that Tory activists overwhelmingly support the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, when she talks of turning back boats in the Channel, sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda, and quitting the European Court of Human Rights.

Yet, even an ideologue such as Liz Truss was eventually forced into the realisation that Conservatives’ atavistic anti-immigration instincts are at odds with their avowed aim of growing the economy and increasing productivity.

It is time for Rishi Sunak to send out a clear alternative message to counter the rebarbative dog-whistle politics of Tories such as Mrs Braverman. Instead, as one of the original Brexiteers, he should remind his party that, at the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU, the Leave campaign spoke of the need to “take back control”.

Sadly, today, this slogan has become a catch-all for a xenophobic policy of “Keep all foreigners out.” But control, properly understood, ought to be about regulating the flow and type of immigrants — to allow in those who will benefit the UK economy. If Mr Sunak’s “compassionate Conservatism” is to be anything more than empty political rhetoric, the Government needs both a more caring and a more coherent approach to immigration.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)