LONDON: Britain published proposals for an EU immigration crackdown after Brexit on Wednesday as business groups warn the economy is not ready for Britain to crash out of the European Union without a divorce agreement in place.
The immigration proposals are aimed at winning over Brexit hardliners who have resisted voting in favour of the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with EU leaders.
But they will cause anger in parts of Britain, such as London, that have benefited from EU immigration. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the government’s approach was “misguided” and “risks doing profound damage to growth, jobs and communities across London and the UK”.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said visas would be introduced for EU nationals arriving after Britain leaves the bloc and the new system would be based on skills, not nationality, putting EU and non-EU citizens on the same footing.
“It will be a system that will bring net migration down to more sustainable levels,” he told BBC radio, although he said there was “no specific target” for the reduction. He said he hoped the new measures would put more pressure on employers “to look at the domestic workforce first”.
Sajid Javid said that the government will get immigration down to “sustainable” levels, but there will be no “specific target” for reducing the numbers. He denied the Government was abandoning commitments in the Conservative Party general election manifesto to cut immigration. However, he refused several times to repeat the target first set by David Cameron to get annual net migration down below 100,000 – a target which the Government has consistently failed to meet.
Mr Javid confirmed the Government intended to set a minimum salary requirement for higher-skilled workers applying for five-year visas. However, after the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended a £30,000 threshold, he said they would be consulting further on what the level should be.
“We are not setting the exact threshold today. There will be a threshold. The MAC suggested it should be £30,000. That is their view and it is based on their evidence and it is very important for us to listen to that. It is equally important to listen to business to find the right threshold”, he said.
Mr Javid said while the UK would remain an “open, welcoming country” to migrants, the proposals would deliver on one of the “key messages” from the 2016 EU referendum vote.”We are delivering on the clear instruction to get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people,” he said.
“It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business,” he elaborated.
The new immigration and borders system will be implemented in a “phased” approach from 2021, following the post-exit transition period.