Business groups blast Government's 'sucker punch' immigration plans
Britain’s major business groups have rounded on ministers’ post-Brexit immigration plan amid fears it could leave firms unable to recruit the staff they need.
Sajid Javid this afternoon unveiled the Government’s delayed white paper, outlining how Britain will manage the numbers entering the country after it leaves the European Union and completes the transition phase.
Among the plans is a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for skilled workers, an end to freedom of movement and preferential access for European citizens and an end to long-term low-skilled migration.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has vowed to consult businesses over the next year about how the system will operate.
"I think it is important that the Government should set out how it thinks the system could work, set out some indications, but then also to go away to listen to what businesses and others have got to say," he said.
But Josh Hardie of the CBI - which represents large businesses - said a new immigration policy “must command public confidence and support the economy” while warning that the Government's plans “would achieve neither”.
"The proposals outlined in the White Paper don’t meet the UK’s needs and would be a sucker punch for many firms right across the country, particularly in sectors such as construction and healthcare,” he said.
"The Government’s own analysis suggests people and regions will be poorer as a result of them.
"The Government cannot indulge in selective hearing. It tunes in to business evidence on a disastrous Brexit no deal, but tunes out from the economic damage of draconian blocks on access to vital overseas workers."
Meanwhile Dr Adam Marshall, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said companies were sceptical as to whether the plans could address their “practical, real-world concerns”.
"The consultation ahead must result in a system that delivers on business needs in all regions and nations of the UK,” he said.
"Ministers have one last chance not just to listen, but to genuinely hear and act on the concerns that businesses have about their proposals."
Meanwhile the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the emphasis on high skills posed a “real headache” for smaller firms’ ability to recruit.
"Getting this threshold wrong will cause serious disruption to the economy. With the employment rate at a record-high, small firms are already struggling to access the skills they need,” its chairman, Mike Cherry said.
The proposals also drew flak from Yvette Cooper, chair of the parliament's cross-party Home Affairs Committee.
She said: "The white paper took the government 18 months to produce, and yet it we still don’t have the full details of how a future immigration system would work, how vital public services like health and social care will be able to recruit the staff they need, and also what the implications will be for British citizens wanting to live and work in the EU."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey meanwhile said: “Every year, tens of thousands of employers would for the first time have to apply for visas – with all the costs, bureaucracy and delay the Home Office specialises in.
“Britain's immigration system isn't broken because of the EU, it's broken because Home Secretaries like Theresa May pandered to populism and failed to do their day job."