Immigration white paper

Low-skilled workers from EU countries will no longer have the automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit, under proposed new immigration rules.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the plans did not include a specific target for reducing numbers coming into the UK. He told the BBC that But they would bring net migration down to “sustainable levels’. He also said that there was “no reason to think” the plans would harm the economy.

The home secretary told the BBC that most people would agree the current level, 273,000, was “very high” and it should be cut to a level that “meets first our economic need but at the same time is not too high a burden on our communities or infrastructure”. He said the new immigration system would be based around skills rather than where people came from and would be the “biggest shake-up in 40 years”.

The White Paper – a document setting out proposed new laws before they are formalised in a government bill – includes: Scrapping the current cap on the number of skilled workers such as doctors or engineers from the EU and elsewhere; A consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas; Low-skilled workers may be able to apply for short-term visas of up to a year; Visitors from the EU will not need visas; Plans to phase in the new system from 2021

The ending of free movement is a key part of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, although any replacement system is set to be part of post-Brexit trade talks. Mr Javid described the White Paper as “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 that,

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.

It accepts a recommendation from the independent Migration Advisory Committee to scrap the current limit of 20,700 on workers classed as high-skilled coming to the UK using Tier 2 visas. Tier 2 is the name for general work visas for people from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland who have been offered a skilled job in the UK. Eligible professions include nurses and doctors.

There will be a consultation about the salary threshold of £30,000 amid opposition to such a cap from business and some cabinet members. The £30,000 minimum earnings rule already applies to non-EU workers in most Tier 2 visa cases but could also apply to migrants from the EU.

Extending it to skilled migrants could affect the NHS’s ability to recruit the staff it needs, the body representing NHS trusts has warned. NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery told the BBC that,

We are deeply concerned about what is going to happen. High skills does not equal high pay. You have got starting salaries for nurses at £23,000 – also for paramedics, midwives. Junior doctors starting salaries at £27,000, healthcare assistants at £17,000, all coming in way below that £30,000 cap. It is not just health workers, it is social care as well. We have to remember where the skills lay. They lay in those staff under £30,000.

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.

Cavendish Coalition co-convenors Danny Mortimer, Nadra Ahmed and Sara Gorton said,

The Cavendish Coalition represents a UK-wide coalition across social care and health, bringing together employers and unions from the complete spectrum of state, charitable and private providers. We are extremely concerned whether the visa proposals in the Immigration White Paper will encourage the numbers of care staff social care needs to sustain services. The new immigration system must adjust skills and salary levels to ensure that health and social care provision can be properly staffed by the skilled care staff it needs.

While it is anticipated there may be some provisions for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, this ignores physios, paramedics and other allied health professionals and there will be severe implications for the social care workforce in particular as well as outstanding concerns on doctor and nurse recruitment. The sector relies on lower paid – but hugely skilled – colleagues whose availability would be effectively cut off by a proposed salary threshold of £30,000 and with no special allowance like that recommended for seasonal agricultural workers. Either the Government needs to fund wage increases or make special provision for health and care.

If the government does not address this social care crisis the knock-on effects to the population and the wider economy will be enormous. People who are best cared for in their homes or in the community will need greater support from their families (putting strain on other areas of the labour market) as well as the NHS


Karendeep Kaur, Immigration analyst at Migrate UK, gave the following advice:

Today’s long awaited new immigration white paper won’t necessarily safeguard EU workers’ future in the UK if Britain ends up with a ‘no deal’ Brexit, or help with the skills shortage. While a no deal would mean no transitional period for EU workers to transfer to pre-settled status. It would also result in a likelihood that companies would immediately be required to hold a sponsor licence, which can take up to four months to secure and thereafter issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to their employees.

Now more than ever is the time employers must take immediate action, to help safeguard the skills they need to grow their business in times of uncertainty. To safeguard additional skill shortages, HRs and employers should apply for a sponsor licence now so the business has the correct permitted documentation to employ EU workers whether there’s a deal or no deal.

Identify all your EU workers and their current status in the UK – have some already got a registration certificate (RC) or a permanent residency (PR)? If not, for the sake of just £65, depending on their status, employers should help employees to arrange either a RC or PR and obtain a passport which is going to be a requirement in place of the National ID cards. If they have EU family currently in the UK with them then can do a combined EEA Family Member application with the RC or PR application.

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