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CBI calls for “honest debate” about immigration and how skills gaps will be closed when UK leaves EU (6 March 2017)

Date: 06/03/2017
Duncan Lewis, Business Immigration Solicitors, CBI calls for “honest debate” about immigration and how skills gaps will be closed when UK leaves EU

CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn has called for an honest debate about immigration as the UK leaves the EU.

Ahead of publication of the latest net migration figures, Ms Fairburn said that it was “clear” that there will be trade-offs to make when it comes to designing a new immigration system and called for a system that delivers the outcomes desirable for jobs businesses are looking to fill, living standards and public services, rather than one designed to meet a target for net migration.

This builds on the CBI’s recent paper that sets out business priorities for the future migration system.

The CBI says that – while there are public concerns about immigration that need to be addressed – a badly designed system will come at a cost to investment and jobs, the delivery of strong public services and economic growth.

The CBI’s paper also states that, following the Referendum vote, a new approach to manage migration would be required.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 by the end of March and begin the process of the UK leaving the European Union.

The CBI says that, as the source of prosperity, jobs and opportunity in Britain’s communities, business has a vital role to play in maintaining stability, and helping the government to plot the future path of the UK economy.

“Working together, we must identify opportunities outside of the EU, while safeguarding the benefits of a close relationship with European partners, to build a prosperous UK economy that works for everyone,” says the CBI paper.

"Immigration was a defining issue in the EU referendum campaign and while the vote to leave was a vote against the status quo, there remains debate about what alternative people voted in favour of. The Prime Minister has been clear that free movement as it currently operates will change as a result of leaving the EU. This has raised doubt about the status of EU nationals here now. Although is estimated that the majority of EEA nationals currently in the UK are eligible for permanent residency or citizenship, it is unclear that the current processes would be able to cope with the volume of applications.To provide reassurance to those individuals and their employers, it should be an immediate priority for the government to secure a reciprocal agreement on the status of EU nationals in the UK."

“It is also critical that a simple system is put in place for people to claim residency where eligible – and that a generous system is put in place for those who currently reside in the UK and contribute to our economy, but do not meet the existing requirements. EU nationals currently in the UK must have the confidence they are welcome to remain in the UK and contribute to the economy. It has also raised longer term questions about how to make sure UK companies are open to the world, can fill skills gaps and meet the labour requirements of a high-employment economy in a way that supports economic growth and prosperity.”

The CBI added it has been working closely with members since June 2016 to identify the business priorities for a new settlement on migration.

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