Critics attack 'hostile' plan
Immigrants ‘need to speak English’ under points system
Restaurants are among those using immigrant labour (pic: Terry Murden)
British companies will be discouraged from employing cheap labour from the EU under post-immigration plans unveiled by the government.
The Home Office said these workers may not get visas and that companies would instead be encouraged to train their own workers and develop more automation.
EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK would be treated equally after free movement ends on 31 December but they will need to accumulate “points”.
They will need at least 70 points to work in Britain, with points awarded for speaking English.
All migrants will need to earn at least £25,600 a year and must hold an offer for a job which meets the ‘skills test’.
However, the minimum salary is flexible which means an applicant could earn as little as £20,480 a year if they meet other criteria, such as filling a job where there are shortages.
All successful migrants will still be entitled to bring dependant relatives with them.
It as a “disastrous one-size-fits-no-one policy–Stuart McDonald, SNP MP
Labour described the plan as “hostile” and likely to lead to shortages. The construction industry relies on three million overseas workers. Hospitality, health and agriculture also hire large numbers of immigrants.
SNP immigration spokesman Stuart McDonald MP, described it as a “disastrous one-size-fits-no-one policy that poses a very real threat to Scotland and leaves businesses and the public with just 10 months to prepare for it”.
He said: “Instead of a much vaunted new ‘Australian Points Based system’, they’ve simply tweaked the failed policies of the past.
“Free movement is about the only bit of the UK migration system that works well – we should retain it, not scrap it. Ending it will be bad for business and bad for the economy, and risks putting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of EU citizens in jeopardy.”
It is the biggest shake-up of our immigration system in a generation and is what the public rightly demand– Priti Patel, Home Secretary
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new system would mean “the brightest and the best will be able to come to the United Kingdom”. Highly skilled workers – such as scientists – will be able to come without a job offer.
She said she had listened to the “clear message” from the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 General Election that the public wanted “a reduction in low-skilled immigration.”
‘Today we set out our historic blueprint for taking back control of our borders,” she said. “It is the biggest shake-up of our immigration system in a generation and is what the public rightly demand.”
Employers will be encouraged to recruit from Britain’s pool of 1.3m unemployed, or pay higher wages to ensure they retain existing staff.
However, some industry leaders warned that the scheme would create problems for the care system, farmers, builders and the hospitality sector.
Home Office officials warned that businesses would have to wean themselves off cheap labour from the Continent.
The government said: “It is important employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity and wider investment in technology and automation.”
It also pointed to a quadrupling of the scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture to 10,000, as well as “youth mobility arrangements”, which allow 20,000 young people to come to the UK each year.
The scheme could lead to a rush of EU migrants coming to Britain by the end of the year. Any EU citizens living in Britain by New Year’s Eve will be entitled to live and work in Britain under current rules.
The reforms will:
- Limit EU nationals without a visa to a maximum of six months in Britain;
- Bar all new migrants, including Europeans, from claiming income-related benefits;
- Allow EU travellers to carry on using the current ‘UK and EU’ e-gates at ports and airports – although this will be ‘kept under review’;
- Force all migrants, including those from the EU, who come here to work to pay towards the NHS – currently set at £400 a year;
- Exclude more Europeans who have criminal records;
- Phase out ‘insecure’ EU identity cards being used as travel documents.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Getting a new immigration system right on day one will be critical for economic growth and the UK’s global reputation as it forges a new path outside the EU.
“Firms recognise and accept that freedom of movement is ending, and have sought a system that is both open and controlled, valuing people’s contribution beyond their salary while retaining public confidence.
“Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from £30,000.
“Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected.
“Firms know that hiring from overseas and investing in the skills of their workforce and new technologies is not an ‘either or’ choice – both are needed to drive the economy forward.
“So careful implementation across all UK nations and regions will be required. A regularly reviewed shortage occupations list, with promises of further flexibility, will be vital for the effectiveness of the new system.
“Above all, the government must work with employers and employees – especially smaller firms – to ensure they have the time to adapt to new policies and practices.”