Post-Brexit migration system should not give preferential treatment to European workers, says major report

Posted On: 
18th September 2018

Britain's post-Brexit immigration system should not give preferential treatment to European citizens, according to a major report.

Workers from the European Economic Area should be treated the same as those from other countries, the report recommends
PA Images

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said free movement from the European Economic Area should end after the 21-month implementation period that kicks in on 29 March next year.

It also recommended that immigration to the UK should be made easier for high-skilled workers, but that strict limits should be placed on low-skilled labour.

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The group recommends ending the cap on Tier 2 visas - which are granted to those who are offered a “skilled job” with a “licensed sponsor” - and opening them up to “medium-skilled” workers.

The suggestion will heap further pressure on the Government to drop its target of reducing net migration to below 100,000.

Elsewhere, the 140-page report says that the slump in the pound following the EU referendum did more damage to wage rates and employment opportunities for British people than the influx of migrants from new EU countries since 2004.

The long-awaited report, which was commissioned by former Home Secretary Amber Rudd in July 2017, consulted businesses, industry bodies and government departments.

It says that there are no “compelling reasons” to continue setting different migration rules for EEA citizens and that an end to freedom of movement can be enforced alongside a “relatively open policy to migration”.

It adds that migration from the EEA has “had neither the large negative effects claimed by some nor the clear benefits claimed by others”.

The MAC report also calls for migration policies to be better monitored so that their impact on local communities is known.

And it recommends a single migration policy across the UK, despite calls by the Scottish government for Holyrood to be given the right to set its own policy.


MAC Chair Professor Alan Manning said: “Our recommendations to the Government on a future work immigration system post-implementation period are designed to benefit the resident UK population.

“The MAC’s core recommendation is for the UK to be more open to skilled workers from around the world and to limit access to low-skilled workers.

“High-skilled workers bring clear benefits to the UK economy and should be actively encouraged."

David Lammy, the Labour MP and supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign said the report was a “sledgehammer” for the Government.

“It shows that the Tories have not only failed to come up with a fair immigration policy, but that by ending free movement, they will drain our economy and vital services of workers that we need,” he said.

“The most vulnerable will have to pay the price. If fruit isn't picked, prices go up and consumers get shafted. If there's a lower tax take, that means those most reliant on vital services get cut off.”

Professor Jonathon Portes of thinktank, The UK in a Changing Europe said: “The MAC are too polite to say so, but this report shows beyond doubt that the government’s economically illiterate net migration target should finally be put out of its misery.

“After Brexit, we will need immigration – for growth, productivity, and not least to help the public finances – more than ever. 

“Since 2010, many aspects of UK immigration policy have been based not on analysis and evidence but on unpleasant and damaging nativism.

“This report provides an opportunity for our politicians to reverse that, if they have the courage to take it.”