The REC and APSCo have responded to Theresa May’s promise that post-Brexit migration policy will focus on skills.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement on low-skilled migration is not a surprise, given the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee, but is nonetheless a big concern,” comments Neil Carberry, CEO of the REC. “Many sectors, including the food industry, logistics, construction, health and social care rely on ‘low-skilled’ workers. Given the current state of the UK jobs market and the labour shortages that these sectors face, the proposed changes risk damaging UK prosperity.
“We need a post-Brexit immigration system which allows employers to recruit for roles at all skill levels depending on the needs of the economy,” he adds. “Given the close ties between the UK and Europe, we believe the government should secure a deal with the EU which allows employers to recruit flexibly and quickly. Businesses need reassurance that their workforces and supply chains will not be damaged after Brexit.
“Equally worrying is the possible extension of the costly and complex sponsorship system, especially for small businesses,” says Carberry. “Employers will also be concerned about the lack of movement on the Tier 2 visa cap, which stops them being able to fill higher-skilled roles such as doctors and engineers – this is despite the MAC’s recommendation to remove the cap. Businesses need clarity on these issues so that they can plan for the future and help drive the success of our economy.”
Tania Bowers, General Counsel at APSCo commented: “We support the Prime Minister’s position that the UK must be an outward-facing nation after Brexit to attract the people the country needs. A white paper outlining how the proposed system will work is not expected to be published until later in the autumn and it seems that UK policy is likely to be consistent with policies across most developed nations outside the EEA, by prioritising highly skilled work visas post-Brexit.
Bowers notes that APSCo welcomes the government’s communication on the post-Brexit immigration debate following the recent publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s influential report on the impact of EEA migration in the UK adding that the paper recommends a focus on higher skilled workers, which is in line with APSCo’s view given the skills shortages in many of the STEM sectors our members recruit into.
“We are also encouraged by MAC’s recommendation that the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 is abolished,” she says. “Sajid Javid has indicated he is considering this option, albeit Theresa May has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to getting annual net immigration below 100,000.
“We note that the MAC made little mention of the flexible labour market,” says Bowers. “We think it is critical that the government recognises the importance of highly skilled independent workers to the economy, many of whom may be EEA nationals. The current route for non EEA workers, namely sponsorship via a Tier 2 employer, is not appropriate for the country’s needs.”
Bowers says access to skilled professionals and engineers benefits the whole economy and, in an increasingly tight market, is key to stability and growth. “To secure the best deal migration must form part of the exit discussion with the EU,” she says. “To fulfil their clients’ requirements recruiters must find the best available talent either from within the UK or elsewhere. Until post-Brexit migration policy is finalised, there is a risk that the uncertain climate will continue to deter valuable talent from choosing the UK to build their careers.”