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Pressing reset on UK immigration policy

A weakened Conservative government holding a hampered mandate to see through manifesto pledges provides a fresh opportunity for open and constructive dialogue with business. We seized this opportunity at a dinner hosted by Bloomberg, bringing together leaders of a powerful group of business and sector organisations, including the CBI, IOD, British Chambers of Commerce, TechUk and British Retail Consortium, to discuss what a good immigration system for the UK looks like.

There was strong agreement that this should be a reset moment for immigration, and we should advocate a new system that is intrinsically linked to London and UK economic growth, whilst allowing the government to maintain control and build public trust. The latter is fundamental – even though it seems there is now more opportunity to press for a business friendly Brexit, pre and post-election polls conducted by British Future and Hanbury Strategy showed there remain significant public concerns on migration, particularly around ‘low skilled migration’, combined with a lack of trust in and understanding of data and policy.

We presented our proposal for a new immigration system which would aim to achieve all the above and which each group could get behind. There was broad support for this.  We have spent the last few months testing our ideas with members, and most recently ran a series of workshops with CEOs and Chairpeople.

We had a very rich discussion on how to land our asks with the new government, and will take on board the valuable suggestions received from our allies.  In essence, we believe that both access to talent and control can be achieved through our proposal, which sets out three improved entry routes to talent and labour: salary thresholds; shortage occupations; and high value talent in innovation, arts and culture.

Furthermore, the system must be underpinned by highly improved operations to minimise friction costs, and must exclude international students from the migration debate by reclassifying them as temporary visitors.  Of course, we also call for a quick decision on existing EU nationals in the UK.

We will share our proposal for a new immigration system with members as soon as we finalise the detail.

Our work is incredibly timely: this week we also met with the Chair of the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), who will be commissioned by the government to provide advice on what the post Brexit immigration system should look like.  While the timeline of this major commission is yet to be agreed with government, it seems we can expect to see it sooner rather than later.

Among the business groups we met, there was strong support for business to come together as a single voice in relation to government, and London First will be integral as we press the government for the best possible deal from the Brexit negotiations.

We will keep our members updated on the development of our immigration proposal, and outcomes of future meetings.



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