How to make friends and influence people – UK immigration

Let’s say you are a successful business person – entrepreneur or senior corporate manager – from a dynamic, successful country such as China, India, or Brazil.  You keep your finger on the pulse, and recently you have been reading a lot about countries such as the US and the UK bringing previously offshored work back home. That might be call-centre work, or it may even be manufactured goods, driven by procurement and supply chain executives seeing the cost differentials falling and the risk of supply from distant countries increasing.

So you’re actually thinking about investing in the UK. You have good customers here, you don’t want to lose them, and perhaps building a factory on Wearside or opening a call-centre in Plymouth would be the answer. The procurement people you deal with here love the idea, which you’ve already floated with them. And there’s no problem with funding. You – or your firm – have plenty of cash, as your profits have quadrupled in the last three years.

You arrive at Heathrow, tired after the long flight. You walk for what seems like miles – the travelator isn’t working. You turn the corner.. and you see it. The queue at immigration. It fills the immigration hall and spills out into the corridor. Hundreds of tired, thirsty, and very angry men, women, children and babies.

Three hours later, in the 40 minute queue for a taxi, and minus a bag that has disappeared from the luggage hall while you were trapped in the queue, you have already decided. Why on earth would I invest in a place that is so arrogant, incompetent or impoverished that it can’t even organise a civilised way for me to get into the country?

When the Home Secretary fired Brodie Clark the other day, for allegedly relaxing the immigration rules, he was quoted as saying this.

“This summer saw queues of over three hours (non EU) on a regular basis at Heathrow and I never once contemplated cutting our essential controls to ease the flow."

This is the real scandal of the whole affair, not who exactly allowed rules to be relaxed. Any country, any Minister, any Border Agency executive that thinks that a three hour wait is acceptable for anyone – let alone people who have just spent hours on a plane - is not just crazy, but is contributing directly to the future failure of the UK.  I’m amazed there hasn’t been more outcry about this – but next time you see headlines about how overseas manufacturing and business investment into the UK is still disappointingly low, just think about this.

If you had the money, would you invest in a country that treats you in this manner?

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Voices (3)

  1. Christine Morton:

    Well at least UK immigration is relatively friendly. US immigration is decidely unfriendly.. and I’m dual US/UK citizen.

  2. huhh?:

    Peter – agree with you wholeheartedly. We are totally poor in so much of what we do in this country. If we took pride in these things, small things, then the big things wouldn’t – maybe – be so rubbish!

  3. Steve:

    Are there any process flow experts out there who can improve this? As well as reducing the wait, make it more civilised. Compare with how the check-in process has improved greatly over the years. And immigration should be easier – you know exactly who is coming in advance and roughly when: they got on the plane hours ago. Put immigration on the plane?!
    nb – just because other countries are even worse than us, that is no excuse!

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