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Decade of Low-Skilled Migration ‘No Benefit’ to UK Citizens, Cost Taxpayers Money

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OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty

A decade of mass migration of low-skilled workers from EU nations has provided “no clear benefits” to British citizens, MPs have been told, as corporate interests fight to keep the border wedged open.

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) chairman Professor Alan Manning said that the influx of migrants in low-wage jobs seen since Labour dismantled the UK’s border with eastern Europe “hasn’t really had positive effects and has had negative effects”.

Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, he said: “Most of the EU migration since 2004 has been predominantly low-skilled and it is not clear what benefit that has had to UK residents.”

“If we take the public finances, we’re saying that lower skilled migration has probably been negative on the public finances because most of these workers are earning below a break-even salary at which taxes exceed benefits and public services that they consume,” added Manning.

Weighing up the pros and cons of low-skilled migration over the past decade, “there isn’t much on the positive side of the ledger” when looking at the facts of the influx, Manning said.

The professor’s appearance before the committee came after an MAC report last month, advising the government on developing a post-Brexit immigration system, said it was neither in the interests of UK workers nor the treasury to create routes for low-skilled migration once Britain leaves the EU.

Asked to justify the recommendation by left-wing MPs including Stuart McDonald, who praised the MAC’s “fantastic research” while urging it redraw its conclusions to advocate continued free movement, Manning rejected big business’s claims that cutting off an unlimited supply of labour would damage the economy.

Urging the committee to assess the arguments of corporate interests in a more critical way, he told MPs big business was coming from a place of vested interests when claiming a reduction in the supply of cheap labour would be a “disaster” for the country.

The MAC recommendations, which have largely been backed by ministers, would have come as a blow to Mr McDonald’s party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has repeatedly argued that Scotland needs immigration powers devolved from the UK because its economy will suffer without mass migration to grow the population.

The overall effect of the influx of more than a million low-skilled EU workers has been to shape Britain into a “lower wage, lower productivity kind of economy”, Manning told MPs, adding that really the only positive argument could be that certain goods moght cost less as a result.

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