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Immigration Solicitors

Independent think tank supports access to UK jobs market for highly skilled workers post-Brexit (25 May 2017)

Date: 25/05/2017
Duncan Lewis, Immigration Solicitors, Independent think tank supports access to UK jobs market for highly skilled workers post-Brexit

Independent think tank Migration Watch UK has said that a major benefit of Brexit will be the UK’s ability to control net migration from the EU – currently around 160,000 people every year.

However, in a briefing paper, EU Immigration, Post-Brexit – A Comprehensive Policy, the think tank also says that the focus should be on “preserving access for the highly skilled by means of work permits similar to those now issued to highly skilled non-EU migrants”.

The authors say that, for some occupations that are below the skill level to qualify for a highly skilled work permit, it might be necessary for the UK government to introduce a transitional period, to give employers the time needed to train British replacements.

The briefing paper also states that the Youth Mobility Scheme could be extended to EU citizens – with the additional purpose of promoting cultural exchange in its broadest sense with young Europeans, a so-called “Barista Visa”.

Migration Watch adds that, since the vote to leave the European Union, “the response from business lobby groups and umbrella organisations has been to warn the government of its continued need for further inflows of workers from the EU”.

“Representations have been made by various organisations, including the Institute of Directors, which has suggested that there should be ‘some limits on free movement’ – and the Federation of Small Business, which has suggested a system of work permits for all EU workers offered a job regardless of skill level or pay,” states the Migration Watch briefing paper.

The paper also points out that The National Farmers Union has argued for the reintroduction of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme – and The British Hospitality Association has argued in favour of a ten-year transition period post-Brexit, claiming that the sector would require at least 60,000 additional EU workers a year.

Migration Watch adds that evidence indicates that the population of EU workers in the UK already “is a relatively settled one”.

“Our analysis of the Labour Force Survey shows that workers from the East European (EU10) nations who have arrived since 2008 are largely still present – and thus appear to have settled in the UK.

“As for those from the EU14, the picture is slightly different – with the numbers from each arrival year diminishing over time (this is likely to be due to the higher proportion of students in this group).”

Migration Watch claims that analysis of those from the EU currently in the UK “clearly points to the conclusion that a continued significant inflow is not required in order to maintain the current stock of EU workers resident in the UK”.

The paper suggests that, although inflow of EU workers might not be needed to maintain “current stock”, the think tank’s analysis demonstrates that – of the 1.25 million workers who have arrived from the EU since 2006, a total of 78% are currently working in jobs at lower skills level than would qualify for a Tier 2 work permit for a non-EU national.

“This suggests that tackling such lower skilled migration should be the priority for a policy designed to reduce immigration.

“Such a policy also makes sound economic sense – highly skilled workers earn much higher wages and make a positive contribution to the UK exchequer.

“There is, however, very little evidence that migration for low skilled work is of economic benefit.”

The think tank suggests that a new and temporary route be opened up to cover EU nationals – an “EU Skills Shortage Visa”, which could be issued for a period of one year, extendable for an additional year to a maximum of three years, with the Migration Advisory Committee deciding which sectors or occupations would be eligible.

However, the paper recommends workers on this route “should not be allowed to switch into another visa category and should not be able to settle”.

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