Manufacturers join calls for visa reforms

The UK's leading manufacturers' organisation has become the second major business group in a week to demand the next government relax immigration restrictions to enable companies to hire skilled foreign labour.

Manufacturers join calls for visa reforms.
Make UK (formerly EEF) says in its ‘Backing Manufacturers - The Makers' Manifesto’ that political parties contesting next month's general election should "move on from blame-driven politics and demonstrate to the electorate they have real vision and ambition for the UK economy".The organisation proposes a post-Brexit trading relationship with the European Union (EU) based on frictionless trade, regulatory alignment, access to labour and a lengthy transition period that allow businesses time to adapt to change.It is calling on the incoming government to re-think the UK's immigration policy to ensure manufacturers have access to the skills they need – a call that echoes one made by the British Chambers of Commerce in its own business manifesto.

Manufacturers push to avoid a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, comments, “The first and foremost priority for the next government must be an agreement with the EU... which removes ‘no deal’ and ensures four key outcomes to safeguard the future prospects for manufacturers. This is absolutely essential to avoid leaving without an agreement, which would be catastrophic for industry.“Beyond that, what the public and business want to see is not the narrow-minded, blame-driven politics we have witnessed in the last few years, but a grown-up vision of where we are going as a country and an economy.“They want to see pledges that will support the creation of the skilled jobs we need, equip their children with the education and skills for the future and anchor value-creating businesses in the UK. In short, they want to hear what the big picture is for very critical issues in a world that is facing rapid technological and social change.”
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Mr Phipson continues, “Beyond the immediacy of a sensible agreement with the EU, we need to move on quickly and ensure government works with industry to deliver a better-balanced economy and sustained growth. Manufacturing will be central to delivering this and addressing the major societal and technological challenges we face.“Some important groundwork has been laid through the industrial strategy. It is now vital the next government, however, it is made up, commits to immediate policies which will ensure the UK remains an attractive place to do business, encourage growth, boost private sector investment and job creation.”The group has drawn up a 15-strong list of priorities that it wants the incoming government to implement in its first year. Aside from a new immigration policy, the list includes calls for increased support for exporters, simplifying the visa processing system to help SMEs and investments in infrastructure.

IoD manifesto for UK government

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has also published its first set of business manifesto papers, which argues the new government must reinvigorate the UK's regions.Tej Parikh, the IoD's chief economist, says, “While Brexit may continue to dominate politics in 2020, this can’t just be a Brexit election. Leaving the EU isn’t a get-out clause allowing the incoming government to overlook the many domestic hurdles impeding the UK’s economic growth.“From backing start-ups and scale-ups to speeding up full-fibre broadband delivery and strengthening the links between universities and SMEs, there’s no shortage of steps government can and should take to put our economy on the front foot and reinvigorate the regions. After years of bottled-up investment, we have to make up for lost time to sort out the country’s dire record on productivity.“Parties have signalled their intention to spend big in the years ahead, but there’s no point filling the tank with fuel if the engine still needs a service. Politicians must show they understand the day-to-day challenges facing businesses and be strategic, realistic, but ambitious in their response.”

Businesses demand 'simple, flexible' immigration system

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is demanding the government elected in next month's general election adopt an immigration system that makes it easier for companies to acquire the overseas skills they badly need.In its business agenda for the next government, the BCC called on politicians to "reignite" business confidence and investment by avoiding a no-deal Brexit and by taking action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs.Compiled in association with the UK's 53 accredited chambers of commerce, the BCC says businesses' concerns must be at the forefront of the next government’s agenda. Adam Marshall, the organisation's director-general, says, “The message from business communities all over the UK couldn’t be clearer: the next government must deliver an end to the Brexit stalemate and take decisive steps to improve the business environment here at home.“To say business leaders are angry and frustrated would be putting it mildly. They are doing their bit for the country – and think it is high time politicians do their bit too. We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth.“Millions of businesspeople across the UK pay their taxes diligently, and care deeply about their communities and the environment. They should never be seen as the enemies of progress, and Westminster should never be distracted from delivering the conditions needed for growth, jobs and prosperity here at home."Our proposals would help an incoming administration reignite business confidence and investment – and would pay lasting dividends for our communities and the UK economy.”

Immigration proposals

On immigration, the BCC says the next government should introduce a simple and flexible new system that minimises the administrative burden on businesses and allows access to all skill levels – including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles – with recognition of professional qualifications.The organisation also recommends that, on international trade, the incoming administration should ensure continuity of trading conditions with third countries so that businesses can continue to benefit from the levels of market access that they have had under EU free trade agreements. Ministers must also secure the future of the UK-EU trading relationship, minimising cross-border trade frictions and avoiding a hard border with Ireland.And on Brexit, the BCC says the new government must "avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union; ensure the smoothest possible shift from a transition period to the future UK-European Union relationship; and introduce a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions".

Read more news and views from David Sapsted. For updates on Brexit, visit our dedicated Brexit section.

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