Immigration driving UK businesses

08 May 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Immigration regulation and access to UK visas and work permits has been big news recently as the Queen's Speech at the Opening of Parliament once again brought the media's attention to the government's future plans regarding this area of legislation.

So far, the news suggests that the government's immigration bill is likely to be harsh on migrants, with a number of policies are being mulled over that look likely to limit the access that migrants will have to social services. Furthermore, economists have already suggested that the crack down on UK work permits is making a mockery of David Cameron's statement that Britain is “open for business”.

The key problem with the plans outlined in the speech is that they focus on the problems that immigration can bring when poorly managed without acknowledging the huge potential benefits that overseas workers can bring to a new country. In an attempt to counteract the negative discussion around the matter, online publication The Huffington Post has rounded up ten big British businesses founded by immigrants.

One of the biggest names on the high street, Marks & Spencer, heads up the list. The business was founded by Belarusian Jew Michael Sparks, who came to the UK to set up the business with Thomas Spencer back in 1884. The first shop was opened in Leeds, but the company now has over 700 stores in the UK alone and employs over 80,000 people.

Tesco, another popular high street name, also has its roots in immigration. It was founded by Jack Cohen, the son of a Polish immigrant. Last year, the firm was worth over £24 billion, and has made a massive contribution to the British economy since it was first founded back in 1919 from an East London market stall.

Immigrants haven't just made a mark on the British high street, the travel industry also has a lot to thank them for as well. Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, is of Cypriot heritage. The airline was established in 1995 and Sir Stelios very quickly built the company up in to one of Britain's most popular airlines.

Properly managed, skilled migrant workers can bring huge benefits to the British economy at a time when it is in sore need of stimulation and growth. Whether or not the government will revise its approach and provide a more welcoming version of its immigration legislation remains to be seen.