Ministers deny plans to introduce £1,000 immigration levy for EU workers after Brexit
Downing Street has denied plans to make firms pay a £1,000 annual levy for every skilled EU worker they recruit after Brexit - hours after a minister appeared to suggest it was under consideration.
Robert Goodwill raised the prospect of an “immigration skills levy” – which is soon to come into force for migrants from non-EEA nations – being extended to businesses recruiting from the continent.
"If you want to recruit an Indian computer programmer on a four-year contract on top of the existing visa charges and the resident labour market test there will be a fee of £1,000 per year," he told a HOuse of Lords committee.
“So for a four-year contract that employer will need to pay a £4,000 immigration skills charge. That is something that currently applies to non-EU and it has been suggested to us that could be applied to EU."
He urged the peers to include the suggestion in their inquiry report – even though he said the final immigration policy was as yet unclear.
Mr Goodwill explained: “It would be helpful to the British economy and to British workers who feel they are overlooked because of other people coming into the country getting jobs they would themselves like to get.”
But the Prime Minister's official spokeswoman later told journalists that the policy "is not on the Government's agenda".
'IDIOTIC IDEA WOULD KILL BUSINESS'
The Liberal Democrats blasted the idea as “the most idiotic thing to come out of a minister’s mouth since ‘red white and blue Brexit’” - in reference to a soundbite from Theresa May at the end of last year.
"Be under no illusions, this plan would kill off British businesses,” Lib Dem business spokesman Don Foster said.
“The Conservatives used to represent business interests, they have now sacrificed them on the altar of populism.
“I’ve yet to meet a single business who would hire from abroad if they could find the skills they need here.
“The choice they are making is because of their demand to grow, not to abandon British workers.”
He added: "Instead of pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment, the Government should be investing in schools, further education and training to ensure British citizens have the skills British business desperately needs.”
Meanwhile, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt branded the plan “shocking”.
Imagine, just for a moment, what the UK headlines would be, if the EU proposed this for UK nationals? Shocking. https://t.co/vgRuvzut5S
The Institute of Directors called on the Government to "reconsider this proposal".
“This tax will only damage jobs growth at a time when many businesses are living with uncertainty," said Seamus Nevin, the business group's head of employment and skills policy.
"They simply cannot endure the double whammy of more restriction and then, if they do succeed in finding the right candidate, the prospect of an extra charge.”