Incoming migrants post-Brexit: committee lays out recommendations

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The Committee’s report makes several key recommendations:

  • Any changes to the migration policy should make it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK
  • Unless otherwise agreed, there shouldn’t be a preference for EEA citizens
  • The cap on the number of migrants allowed to enter the UK under Tier 2 should be scrapped, but the existing salary thresholds should stay the same
  • Medium-skilled workers should fall under Tier 2, along with highly-skilled ones
  • The Immigration Skills Charge should be maintained, but reviewed
  • The Government should remove the Resident Labour Market Test, or extend the number of exemptions from it by lowering the salary required
  • The Government should view how the current sponsor licensing system works for SMEs, and consult with users of the visa system to make sure it’s easy to use
  • For lower-skilled workers, Sector-Based Schemes should be avoided (apart from Seasonal Agricultural Workers schemes). If this is reintroduced, an agricultural minimum wage should be too
  • The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme should be extended if a ‘backstop’ is necessary to fill low-skilled roles
  • The Government should monitor the impact of migration policies, paying more attention to managing the consequences of local level migration.

While the recommendations are clearly laid out, many have criticised the report. Somewhat controversially, the committee found that the impact of high-skilled migration is more beneficial than lower skills – and that seems to be where their main focus lies.

One big factor is that the report ignores the importance of a route that allows employers to access low-skilled workers from Europe, as they’ll need to register as sponsors before doing so – meaning onerous reporting duties and minimum skill and salary levels. This will have a negative impact on industries like leisure and hospitality, where EEA workers perform essential (albeit not highly skilled) roles. The recommendations have also raised questions about the Home Office’s resources, and how it’ll cope with the introduction of EEA migrants into Tier 2.

Seemingly in line with the Committee’s recommendations, the Government has now announced its proposal to treat EEA migrants the same as non-EEA migrants post-Brexit. But, this is not set in stone and lacks finer detail – the extent to which the current system is extended to EEA migrations may be a point conceded by Theresa May in ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Although the Government usually takes the Committee’s immigration policy recommendations on board, it doesn’t have to. Its response to this report will depend on the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and it’s likely that it’ll publish a White Paper setting out its intentions shortly.