Warning: Future UK Immigration System Must Not Prioritise Only The “High-Skilled”

21 Nov 2019, 34 mins ago

Organisations representing various industry and trade groups have been consistently anxious about the government’s plans to reform the UK immigration system. Groups such as the British Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry have long been vocal about their concerns for the all-new immigration system which the government plans to introduce in January 2021.

With immigration being a sizeable topic of debate in the run-up to the General Election next month, the FT has reported on the fears of representatives of UK business with respect to the Conservative’s stated aim of lowering the numbers of migrants coming to the UK to work in the aftermath of Brexit.

The present government, and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular, have advocated the introduction of an Australian style points-based system, which would require the majority of migrants to have offers of employment before applying to come to the UK. These regulations stand to apply across the board after Brexit – with the same rules affecting both EU and non-EU nationals. The concern voiced by business organisations, however, is that this system may prejudice low-skilled mirgants which may in turn result in skills shortages which UK businesses will struggle to deal with.

An example that has been cited repeatedly is that of the construction industry. Whilst architects will be deemed “high-skilled”, with the ability to meet the salary thresholds the new system will introduce as a qualifying requirement, those working in the manual trades (brick-layers, electricians, roofers and general construction labourers) may find qualifying under the system a lot more problematic. There is justifiable concern in foreseeing a situation where construction projects have been designed and approved but are then not built due to shortages of the necessary labour.

It is for this very reason that critics of the idea that the UK should attract and admit only “the brightest and best” insist that the UK needs (and will need even more after Brexit) people who work across all skill levels in the various parts of the UK’s economy. This is a theme that has been emphasised time and again by business groups, who see particular risks in cutting the numbers of low-skilled migrants in areas such as social care, food processing, agriculture and the hospitality sector. As a result, business groups have called for any new immigration system to be flexible and specifically permit the UK economy to recruit migrants from all skill categories. Without this, the consequences for the UK economy could be very serious.

We will have to wait to see how exactly the future UK immigration system is referenced in the party manifestos which are currently being finalised. What is certain, however, is that prominent business groups will continue to sound alarm bells over the dangers of prioritising high-skilled labour over its low-skilled sibling.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2019



Joe Levtov 

  Joe Levtov

  Solicitor working in our Complex Case Team


Sasha Lal 

  Sasha Lal

  Consultant and trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team