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Leaked document shows UK considering EU migrant clampdown

Sep 06 2017 12:58
Robert Hutton and Cat Rutter Pooley, Bloomberg

London - A leaked UK government document suggested ministers are considering a series of measures to limit and discourage immigration from the European Union after Brexit.

The 82-page draft proposal, which was leaked to the Guardian newspaper, isn’t a final plan but does show one strand of thinking about how the country’s borders should be controlled. When Theresa May was home secretary, the department pushed hard to get the numbers of people coming down to a Conservative target of net immigration of 100 000 people a year.

The document proposed that low-skilled migrants from the EU should be able to come to the UK for at most two years, with a limit of three to five years for those with more skills. Employers would be required to do more to recruit British workers. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that the document was “a blueprint on how to strangle our economy.”

READ: Inside Labour: As Brexit looms, London's migrants keep building

“It is clear the UK needs an immigration system which provides control while also enabling employers to access the foreign workers they need at all levels - whether it be short term seasonal workers, intra-company transfers or permanent positions,” Simon Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said in an email.

He objected to further burdens on employers: “Businesses are not the border agency. The Home Office is not ‘taking back control’ if it expects employers to do the immigration checks for them.”

Business displeased

The Food and Drink Federation, whose members often use cheap migrant labour, was also hostile.

“Food and drink manufacturing, Britain’s largest manufacturing sector, will be alarmed,” Ian Wright, its director general, said in a statement. “If this does represent the government’s thinking, it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make - at all skill levels - across the food chain.”

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC that the government position hadn’t been agreed yet. “There is obviously a balance to be struck, we don’t want to shut the door, of course not,” he said.

“We have always welcomed to this country those who can make a contribution to our economy, to our society, people with high skills. On the other hand we want British companies to do more to train up British workers, to do more to improve skills of those who leave our colleges,” Fallon said.

The proposals are unlikely to be well-received by the EU and could add to uncertainty for businesses and individuals, according to Caron Pope, a lawyer at law firm Fragomen.

“Another leaked document and rumours of conflict in the Government leads to more confusion,” she said in an emailed statement. “Many companies are becoming frustrated as they cannot make recruitment and staffing plans for UK businesses after March 2019, and there is no clear advice for them.”

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