Business backlash against Amber Rudd's fresh immigration curbs
Business groups have reacted angrily to fresh measures aimed at cutting immigration announced by Amber Rudd today.
The Home Secretary unveiled plans for tougher restrictions on international students and non-EU workers in a bid to cut numbers and “change the tide" of public opinion on immigration.
But the Confederation of British Industry and Institute of Directors joined forces to condemn the plans, insisting immigration was good for the UK economy.
“Businesses know that the EU referendum result means change to free movement of workers from the EU, but people were not voting to make the economy weaker,” Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the IoD said.
“The evidence is clear that migrants are a benefit to the economy”
He added: “It was frustrating to hear the Home Secretary sticking to the arbitrary ‘tens of thousands’ target, which has no connection to the skills the UK needs or the actual impacts of migration.
“Amber Rudd all but admitted that it was an impossible target to meet, so holding herself to it can only continue to undermine trust in politicians on this issue.”
The CBI said business would not welcome “further restrictions on high skilled migration from key trading partners around the world”.
Deputy director general of the group, Josh Hardie, said: “At a time when we need strong links globally to seize new opportunities after the referendum, being seen as open to the best and brightest is vital.
“And we should be clear that business does not see immigration and training as an either/or choice. We need both.”
He added: “The Government must tread carefully on any changes to student immigration to make sure we don't undermine this critical sector for national prosperity.”
Elsewhere, TechUK argued the plans to cut the number of non-EU workers would have a “chilling” impact on the tech sector and be a “lose-lose situation for everyone”.
Conservative thinktank Bright Blue said the Government was “wrong” to seek a reduction in the number of international students coming to the UK.
And the Institute for Public Policy Research said the new curbs posed a “serious risk to our economy”.
But Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: "These are very welcome steps forward."
Addressing the Conservative conference in Birmingham today, Ms Rudd announced a consultation on the rules making it easier for those who have studied in the UK to stay on for employment.
She said those attending elite institutions could be treated more favourably, while right of students' spouses to work during their degree will also be reconsidered.
On workers, Ms Rudd said the Government will consider tightening the test for companies recruiting non-EU staff from abroad.
Ms Rudd also unveiled a £140m ‘Controlling Migration Fund’ to ease the pressures on communities and reduce illegal immigration.
And she said she would implement legislation from December so landlords that knowingly rent rooms to illegal immigrants could face prison, while people who want to become taxi drivers will face mandatory immigration checks.
She told the conference hall: “We have to look at all sources of immigration if we mean business...
"It’s only by reducing the numbers back down to sustainable levels that we can change the tide of public opinion, so once again immigration is something we can all welcome.”
But Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said: “We’ve heard these conference promises on net migration and child migrants before and they haven’t come to anything - people will take them with a pinch of salt.”
He added: “Amber Rudd is right to introduce a scheme to help communities address the pressures of migration, as Jeremy Corbyn called for last week.
“But she had depressingly little to say about the largest humanitarian crisis since the second world war and failed to repeat the commitment to taking a share of adult refugees.”
The Tories have so far failed dismally in their pledge to cut immigration to the tens of thousands, with net migration to the UK standing at 333,000 last year.