Barclays boss is right on immigration: Britain must remain open to incomers

It might not be palatable hearing it from the wealthy CEO of a big bank, but it doesn't change the fact that we will all be poorer if we don't heed Jes Staley on the subject

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Wednesday 26 April 2017 16:26

Given the way banks have behaved, it's understandable that people might not feel terribly open to listening to the views of their bosses on the challenges the UK faces.

When Barclays boss Jes Staley stresses the importance of the UK remaining an open, attractive place for bright, talented people to come and study and work?

People might very well say something like: “Isn't he that bloke who just got caught up in that whistleblower scandal? Why should we listen to him anyway? They're all the same, aren't they, out for themselves.”

That's partly true. But the thing is, sometimes even multimillionaire bankers have the right of it. Sometimes we might want to listen to them, because sometimes their interests, and our interests, are in alignment.

Mr Staley today told the BBC that “access to the best and brightest from around the world coming to London” is “tremendously important” to a bank like Barclays and to the City.

It might even be the most important thing to the bank post Brexit, even more than the European passporting rights that allow banks registered in one country to freely sell their services around the EU.

London being open to clever and talented people from around the globe is handy for the rest of us too. For a start Barclays pays them quite well so those people pay a decent slug of tax. That's handy to have given the budget deficit the Chancellor is running.

But it isn't just through tax receipts that Britain benefits through being open to incomers and it isn't just Barclays, or banks more generally, that rely on being able to call upon their services. It's true for a host of industries, not to mention vital state services such as the NHS, and even the education system.

We need people to come in. We benefit from their being here. We will suffer from the stupidity of those in government pandering to the lowest common denominator, the lumpen little Englander and, yes, I'll say it, the out and out racists.

London and the UK's attractiveness to incomers is a symbol of its success. It is something we should be celebrating. Look how well we are doing! I believe someone called Boris Johnson once made just that point.

Londoners know this. We're (mostly) relaxed about it. So are people in some of Britain's other metropolitan hubs such as Edinburgh and Manchester.

It's interesting to note that people are most comfortable with immigration where it is highest.

The pity is the rest of Britain doesn't see that it isn't only the cities that will suffer through pulling up the drawbridge. We will all be the poorer. Quite literally.

I wish more politicians had the courage to make that case. I certainly understand why people might be reluctant to hear it from the multi millionaire bosses of a tainted industry instead.

It doesn't change the fact that sometimes they're right.

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