Brexit offers an opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper on immigration, a new report from the Institute of Directors argues today. The IoD is calling for a comprehensive immigration review which balances the needs of the economy with the will of the public, as expressed in the vote at the EU recent referendum.
Immigration will be a significant issue in the complicated Brexit negotiations, and the UK’s oldest business group urges ministers to recognise there will be a trade-off between curtailing free movement and getting good access to the Single Market. It will be crucial for employers to get the skills they need to adjust in the short-term, while the UK develops the right home-grown skills for the long-term, the IoD said.
The business group set out basic principles to enable the Government to develop a new, more effective, immigration policy:
- Provide certainty to employers that EU immigrants already resident in the UK will be granted the right to remain. This is a major barrier preventing business from planning for the future
- Abandon the arbitrary 100,000 net migration target. It is not based on any evidence on the needs of the economy and is unlikely to ever be met
- Collect better migration data and strengthen enforcement against abuse of the immigration system
- Encourage and enable better integration of immigrants into UK society
- Ensure more joined-up thinking across government departments, and better planning to prepare public services for the effects of immigration
- Train British workers to meet the needs of employers. While the UK will always need migration to fill some skills gaps, the education system can better prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future
Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, and author of the report, said:
“The Leave majority was, in part, a vote of no confidence in how successive governments have managed immigration. Dissatisfaction with policymakers was exacerbated by the Government under-delivering on a promise to bring the number of migrants down to ‘tens of thousands’. The persistence with this target is hard to understand, and we beg the Home Secretary to think again.
“Those who voted to leave the EU did so for many reasons, but we don’t think anyone wanted to make the country worse-off. The evidence is very strong that immigrants play a positive role in our economy, but the Government needs to tackle the public’s concerns, without hindering the nation’s prosperity in uncertain times.
“Now is the time to wipe the slate clean on immigration and start again with a new plan which takes account of the impact on businesses, public services, and the wider UK economy. The vote to leave the European Union was a clear indication of public dissatisfaction with the status quo and this should not be ignored, but it must be dealt with in a way which is not harmful to Britain’s future prospects.”