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Tight immigration laws post-Brexit will hurt UK, says industry boss

The head of the Confederation of British Industry, Carolyn Fairbairn, has issued a startling warning about post-Brexit plans for a system that places strict limits on low-skilled immigration.

The government’s proposed “global system” is expected to place strict restrictions on visas granted for workers earning under £30,000 a year. Fairbairn said this system risks inflicting “massive damage” to Britain’s local communities and economy.

Fairbairn claimed that those earning less than £30,000 actually make a valuable contribution to our economy. They range from lab technicians to people working in our food industry, and Fairbairn also cited universities who pay many of their staff less than the £30,000 figure quoted by the government.

The UK’s current median full-time wage is about £28,000.

Fairbairn went on to list other sectors where staff are sourced from outside the UK, including nursing, and summarised that moving too quickly in shutting the door on these immigrants is a huge risk. She called for a transition period that “needs to be reasonably long.”

Jonathan Portes of King’s College London supported the head of the CBI’s comments, saying, “This wouldn’t just hit fruit-pickers and baristas.”

Theresa May just last week suggested that the solution is for British companies to train British workers to fill these roles, instead of importing staff from abroad. However, she appears to be at odds with her own Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who wants to keep the borders open to lower skilled workers beyond the end of 2020 to help businesses recruit the staff they need to survive.

In an article from the Independent in October 2018, the Migration Advisory Committee appeared to preemptively rebuff May’s recent comments. The MAC said: “Overall there is no evidence that migration has had a negative impact on the training of the UK-born workforce.” It went on to discuss how, in fact, there is evidence that skilled immigrants actually have a positive impact on the amount of training available to UK-born workers.

The cabinet has at least come to an agreement in principle that all migrants will be treated equally after Brexit, with EU citizens no longer enjoying preferential treatment over those moving to the UK from elsewhere.


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