The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) is helping to advise on the UK’s migration policy post-Brexit. The committee has been tasked with helping to shape a new immigration regime that will begin when the transition period of the UK officially leaving the EU ends in 2021. As part of their proposed regime, MAC has proposed a ban on all foreign workers that earn “less than £30,000 a year from obtaining visas” as they “do not see the need for a work-related (visa) scheme for lower-skilled workers” according to the committee’s chairman Alan Manning.
Road haulage, house building and hospitality organisations are particularly concerned due to their reliance on lower-skilled workers, after MAC said only highly-skilled workers would be granted visas. MAC also stated there would be no preference given to European Union citizens.
One employer within the hospitality industry, Des Gunewardena, the owner of D&D London, which runs 40 restaurants, said his company would face challenges to recruit staff. Mr Gunewardena stated that he had “no doubt that if movement of staff becomes difficult, we will need to scale back sharply”, highlighting the impact this proposal is likely to have on the variety of industries that depend upon low-skilled foreign workers.
MAC’s final report in September 2018 justified the proposed regime by stating “there would be enough low-skilled workers in the UK because most of the existing stock of these workers will remain and there would likely be a continued flow of workers through subsequent family migration”.
Despite this, the Labour shadow-government has recommended that immigration policy should not be based on distinguishing between high and low-skilled workers but instead to form “future migration policy on the needs of each industry sector”.
The impact of post-Brexit immigration policy on organisations that depend on low-skilled workers will depend on whether this proposal remains just that or whether it is actually rolled out. If the latter, Stephen Clarke, a senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation has suggested that “these proposals would effectively end low-skilled migration, while prioritising mid and high-skill migration in areas where we have labour shortages”. Whether this prioritisation would be of benefit to the UK is not easy to predict at this time.
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