Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“A new immigration system must command public confidence and support the economy. These proposals would achieve neither.
“The proposals outlined in the White Paper don’t meet the UK’s needs and would be a sucker punch for many firms right across the country. The Government’s own analysis suggests people and regions will be poorer as a result of them.
“The Government cannot indulge in selective hearing. It tunes in to business evidence on a disastrous Brexit no deal, but tunes out from the economic damage of draconian blocks on access to vital overseas workers.
“The facts are clear. Brexit is cutting off the ability to recruit and retain staff for 9 out of 10 firms. Despite firms spending over £45 billion in training each year, staff shortages are already biting. Hospitals, housebuilders and retailers are all struggling to find the people they need at salaries well below £30,000.
“These proposals must change. And when a new system that will work is agreed, the UK must be given time to adapt. This means at least two years to implement the changes after the rules are finalised.
“Further consultation is needed to get this right for the whole of the UK, otherwise calls for devolved and regional immigration policies will only grow louder.”
On the Government’s proposal for lower-skilled visas, Josh said:
“All skill levels matter to the UK economy. A temporary 12-month route for overseas workers earning under £30,000 would encourage firms to hire a different person each year. That needlessly increases costs and discourages migrants from integrating into local communicates – a key social concern. It’s not good for the public or business.”
On administrative burdens, Josh said:
“The ambition to streamline the visa system absolutely must be delivered on. Business needs to see concrete proposals and a commitment to implement simplifications at the same time as any new controls.”
On the timings of a new system, Josh said:
“The Government must not introduce a new system in 2021 that isn’t workable until 2025. Any new approach will be a major change to the labour market, and firms must have time to adapt.”
On migration linked to trade, Josh said:
“To secure the best trade deals around the world, the UK must be willing to put migration and labour market access on the negotiating table – starting with the EU, our most significant trading partner. Failing to recognise this will hamper efforts to secure the UK the best trade terms possible.”
Notes to Editors
The CBI set out its approach to a new post-Brexit migration system in Open & Controlled report, using evidence from 129,000 firms across 18 industry sectors.
The statistic ‘92% of businesses cited Brexit as impacting their ability to recruit and retain staff’ was revealed in a CBI Brexit Preparedness survey, conducted in October 2018.