The recent Brexit vote may have increased the chances of ‘no Brexit’, but let’s assume, for the purposes of analysing where we are on immigration policy, that the UK will leave the EU.
Free movement of people from the EU will end. It has undoubtedly been a benefit for employers, enabling them to fill skills gaps and grow their business, and for the UK’s public finances, with European workers contributing net £2380 more than native workers. But voters want to ‘take back control’ of immigration and the Government has committed to delivering this.
London First has been pragmatic; we’ve engaged constructively with Government to secure the outcome that would best enable continued access to global talent. Two years ago, we released Facing Facts, a pioneering study of migration in London. The essential evidence base helped inform the Migration Advisory Committee’s approach to consulting on the impact of Brexit. We followed this with our proposals for a fair and managed migration system, backed by 200 businesses and our allies. More recently our Global Britain report directly influenced the Government’s immigration white paper, particularly the sticky salary threshold point.
The much-delayed white paper arrived in December. It sets out Government thinking on a new single, skills-based immigration system that brings EU workers into the current Tier 2 route. The idea is to phase it in at the end of the planned Brexit transition period, from January 2021, through a series of immigration rule changes. In parallel, the new Immigration Bill will enable freedom of movement to be repealed and, under amendment from MPs, is expected to become more of an ‘EU Citizens bill’.
The hefty 168-page white paper has been well trailed, but is it any good? On balance, yes, it’s a positive start which business can engage with.