Britain does not require low-skilled migrants after Brexit, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has said, presenting a report which urged lawmakers to treat EU workers the same as those from outside Europe.
The long-awaited report also recommended that the UK make it easier for high-skilled workers to migrate to Britain, advising that it ditch the cap which currently stands at 20,700 each year for people from outside Europe.
“We recommend moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens,” said the report, which was commissioned last year by the then home secretary, Amber Rudd.
“This would mean ending free movement but that would not make the UK unusual – for example, Canada has an open, welcoming approach to migration but no free movement agreement with any other country.”
Home Office ministers rule out immediate response to MAC's recommendations to close door to lower-skilled EU migrants to Britain and impose work permits on higher skilled.
Will first hint of post-Brexit immigration policy be in Theresa May's speech to the Tory party conference? pic.twitter.com/haTREvojOk
— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) September 18, 2018
While stressing it was not taking a position on whether migration policy should be part of negotiations with Brussels, the committee pointed out that preferential access for EU nationals could be a bargaining chip for Britain in that “the biggest gainers from migration are often the migrants themselves”.
The most controversial of the 14 recommendations outlined in the report, which looked at the impact of immigration from the European Economic Area (EEA) on employment, wages, and other areas, was the committee’s assertion that there was no need to create a migration route for low-skilled workers.
“Undoubtedly some sectors will complain vociferously about being faced with an alleged cliff-edge in their supply of labour,” the report said, noting it would be unlikely to have much of an immediate effect on the number of low-skilled migrants in Britain and that family reunification would be a continuing source.
The report makes the “possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme”, but recommends that this should come with the requirement that “employers pay a higher minimum wage in return for the privileged access to labour”.
As MAC chairman Alan Manning acknowledged, the report will likely come as a blow to business interests and lobbyists, who make claims including that Britain “will wither away” unless EU freedom of movement is maintained and companies are given the power to import low-skilled workers from abroad.
Very critical response from @MigrationWatch to the MAC's report. It's chair, Lord Green, says: "This is a very technical report which seems blind to the impact of high levels of EU immigration on many communities in this country as a result of rapid population growth."
— Dominic Casciani (@BBCDomC) September 18, 2018
The recommendations “are designed to benefit the resident UK population”, stressed Professor Manning, who after the report’s publication Tuesday said the government’s aim to reduce annual net migration to “the tens of thousands” is a political target rather than immigration policy, according to Reuters.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “After we leave the EU, we will take back control of our borders and put in place an immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK.
“We commissioned this report in addition to our engagement with business to better understand the impact of EU citizens on the UK labour market. The Government is clear that EU citizens play an important and positive role in our economy and society and we want that to continue after we leave.
“We will carefully consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations before setting out further detail on the UK’s future immigration system.”
Yet there were concerns the new system recommended by MAC would still see immigration at too high a level.
Commenting on the report, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “This is a very technical report which seems blind to the impact of high levels of EU immigration on many communities in this country as a result of rapid population growth.
“With immigration adding one million to our population every three years this simply cannot go on. These proposals would permit continued high levels of immigration, including those with medium skills from all over the world. The overall outcome would be to weaken immigration control rather than strengthen it.”