The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who was appointed to the post in July, announced proposals Tuesday at a meeting of the Conservative Party that are aimed at reducing the number of net migrants to the country and to increase employment of native British people. Some of those measures were met with strong criticism but the politician defended her plans.
In her speech, she suggested British companies could be forced to declare the number of foreign workers they employ, which would allow the government, run by the new Prime Minister Theresa May, to “flush out” companies and push those who abuse employment rules “into better behavior.” The expectation is that such a public declaration would encourage them into hiring more locals, the BBC reported.
However, the minister, who had campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the European Union, said the proposal was not a foregone decision.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday, she said: “We mustn’t ignore the fact that people do want to talk about immigration; if I want to talk about immigration, don’t call me a racist.”
Politicians cutting across parties ridiculed the proposal, many taking to social media.
Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the BBC: Companies do so much in the UK to train up their workers and, of course, look for local hires before going to the overseas market. ... I don't think they should be penalised for having to do so when they have specific skills needs.”
While criticism to the proposal was swift, from both businesses and politicians, there were some who chose to take a different approach. FT Alphaville, a service for financial market professionals by the Financial Times, published a list of its own foreign workers — with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
This is not the first time the U.K. has tried to “nudge” companies into hiring more locals. In 2009, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged companies to hire British staff, a policy unofficially called “British jobs for British workers.”