Brexit migration targets should be scrapped

UK trade groups have issued fresh calls for post-Brexit net migration targets to be scrapped

The UK government is being urged to drop its net migration targets post-Brexit.

In a report published today (August 10), the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) laid out a series of recommendations for Britain’s migration system post-Brexit. Chief among them was the introduction of “an open and controlled” immigration system for EU workers when the UK leaves the bloc – and freedom of movement ends – next year (March 29, 2019).

The CBI said its “significant” consultation with businesses of all sizes has highlighted “just how important migration is to all parts of the UK economy, at all skill levels”, adding that it brings net economic benefits to the UK.

The business group said a new immigration system is required because extending the current non-EU immigration system “is not the solution for EU nationals” as it “is highly complex, time consuming and expensive – particularly for small businesses”.

It also recommended that the UK government legally guarantees the rights of EU citizens already living in Britain, even in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

“The needs are more complex than only ensuring that the UK can attract the ‘brightest and best’,” said CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie, who is urging the UK government to drop its “blunt targets” in favour of a system which ensures those coming to the UK make “a positive contribution” to the economy.

“This is no longer a theoretical debate – it’s about the future of our nation,” said Hardie. “False choices and sloganeering must be avoided at all costs. Openness and control must not be presented as opposites.

“For ‘Global Britain’ to succeed, the UK must send the right signals that show it remains open and welcoming to the world. That means putting migration on the table in trade talks to get us a better deal, first with the EU and then other countries where it is clear existing visa restrictions inhibit trade and foreign direct investment.”

And UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said the report, which the trade group contributed to, “underlines the need for a discussion about the realities and practicalities of migration to the UK and its effect on business”.

“The hospitality sector is particularly in need of a future policy that provides employers with access to talent to support continued investment and growth, alongside our work to develop domestic talent.

“This means acknowledging the need for a variety of workers across the sector at many levels, not just those who are deemed highly-skilled.

“We particularly welcome the recommendation to secure the rights of current EU citizens in the UK, regardless of an exit deal.”