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UK industries react to leaked Home Office paper on immigration

Plans in leaked immigration paper would be “catastrophic” and shows a “deep lack of understanding” of vital contribution of EU migrants, say businesses.


Following the leak of a draft paper outlining the government’s plans for immigration post-Brexit, industries from farming to the medical profession have been reacting and it’s fair to say it’s not been positive. The proposals reported in the Guardian show that whilst EU citizens will continue to be able to come to Britain to live and work, new restrictions will be put in place that could deter them from coming.

They include a requirement to get a residents permit from the Home Office for stays beyond a few months. This would involve a criminality check, possible fingerprinting as well as meeting a minimum earnings threshold. The government plans also make a distinction between highly-skilled workers and others with the former potentially being granted with a residents permit lasting three to five years. For others, a residents permit may only last up to two years. There would also be additional restrictions on bringing family members to the UK.

In a statement, the manufacturers’ organisation EEF’s director of employment & Skills Tim Thomas said “we have grave concerns that at lower skill levels accessing EU workers will be on a completely different basis going forward”. He said a question the paper doesn’t answer is “whether workers other than the highly-skilled, will still want to come to the UK”. Thomas further noted that many manufacturers reported not getting job applications from UK workers.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) also warned of the consequences of increased restrictions for workers in lower-skilled jobs in the UK. BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said “if these proposals are implemented, it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry and for those who enjoy the hospitality it brings – whether it be in restaurants, theatres, hotels, bars and tourist attractions”. In a report published last year, the BHA warned that many businesses in the sector could fail ultimately leading to a loss of jobs.

If these proposals are implemented it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry.
The government need to be urgently reminded that so-called unskilled workers in hospitality – the ambassadors for our country – are necessary. It is not just the bankers and the lawyers that are needed to fill the employment gaps.

British Hospitality & Tourism Industry Brexit Strategic Response November 2016

Other industries also voiced their concerns about the focus of additional restrictions on lower-skilled workers. National Farmers’ Union (NFU) deputy president Minette Batters said “an abrupt reduction in the number of EU workers able to work in the UK after we leave the EU would cause massive disruption to the entire food supply chain”. She added the industry calls “for an urgent and clear commitment from government to ensure that farmers and growers have access to sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers post-Brexit”.

If this does represent the Government’s thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make – at all skill levels – across the food chain.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said manufacturers “will be alarmed” by the proposals with its director general, Ian Wright, saying “if this does represent the government’s thinking, it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU workers make – at all skill levels – across the food chain”.

But concern over the proposals was not limited to industries reliant on lower-skilled workers. British Medical Association (BMA) treasurer Dr Andrew Dreardon said “hardline immigration restrictions that affect NHS workers would seriously impact patient care across the country and only increase what are often already unacceptable delays for assessment and treatment”.

Business body, the Institute of Directors (IoD), said the plans as outlined will not be welcomed by businesses. IoD head of employment and skills Seamus Nevin said “this is obviously not an approach that business leaders – especially of small and medium-sized firms – will want to see”. Nevin also pointed out that even if the proposals were confirmed by government, “much of its contents would be subject to negotiation with the EU”.

This is an important point because the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy will need to take into consideration the type of relationship it wants with the EU going forward. It’s a reminder that as much as the prime minister tries to avoid it, immigration is something that other countries the UK wishes to trade with want liberalised. The EU require accepting free movement for the single market and countries such as Australia and India want fewer restrictions for a trade deal.

Is all this upheaval and the increased hostility worth it? Before Brexit, many industries already reported a shortage of workers. Brexit uncertainty, the weakened pound and rising xenophobia seems to have intensified the problem.

The paper may  just be a draft but it does give us an insight into the government’s thinking. The final version is expected to be informed by a consultation currently being done by the Migration Advisory Committee on the impact of EU/EEA migration on the UK. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable revealed that whilst Home secretary, Theresa May chose to ignore academic evidence from nine studies that showed immigration had little impact on jobs or wages because it was “inconvenient”.

It remains to be seen whether this new research will have much impact on the government’s plans and whether, as the FDF suggests, the government really does have a “deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make”. It could just be wilful ignorance of the evidence.

Leaked Home Office paper says EU immigration should benefit Britons

 

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