British jobs for British robots

LONDON — You can’t get cheap migrant labor in the U.K. anymore. Try building a robot instead.

The U.K. government’s newly-unveiled, post-Brexit immigration system is designed to do two things.

First, satisfy a desire for a reduction in immigration that polls and subsequent elections have indicated motivates many British voters; second, and somewhat less obviously, support a high-tech U.K. economy, at the forefront of automation and artificial intelligence.

This dual function is, as they say in Westminster, classic Dom — a reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings.

One of Cummings’ publicly stated goals is to turn Britain into “the school of the world” and he has sought, U.K. government officials say, to infuse his passion for science and technology into government policy across a wide range of sectors. His science and tech focus is “clearly the lens we are looking at all sorts of policy through,” said one government official.

The Johnson-Cummings crackdown on low-skilled migration goes beyond delivering what the Vote Leave campaign promised in 2016.

So it is that the immigration system must serve the automation revolution; that migrants with a Ph.D. in a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subject get double the number of immigration “points” as their humanities counterparts; and so it is that a special “global talent” route will see the most highly skilled migrants allowed to arrive from anywhere in the world without a job offer.

“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,”

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