CBI demands 'informed debate' over expat workers

The CBI say the government are not leading an informed debate over the benefits immigration brings to skill, innovation and enterprise in the UK and this is putting business at risk of a no-deal Brexit and immigration reform.

Immigration line on uk road
Government proposals for a new, post-Brexit immigration system "fall far short" of what UK businesses need, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said on Friday.

Carolyn Fairburn of the CBI criticises lack of debate over benefits of immigration to skills, innovation and enterprise

In a speech to business leaders in Bristol, Ms Fairbairn - who also voiced companies' fears over the prospect of a no-deal Brexit - attacked the lack of an informed debate over the "skill, innovation and enterprise" that expatriates bring to the UK economy.She said that some politicians were guilty of spreading the misconception that firms only brought in foreign talent and labour because they were too lazy to train up indigenous workers.“We rely on workers from abroad for so much," she said.“To harvest our food, build our homes, care for us in our hospitals, and our old age. To help us win new contracts, bring new skills, ideas and insight.“As we leave the EU, our country has an opportunity - and a responsibility - to shape our own, independent immigration policy."I also want to confront a myth that’s been gaining currency. It’s the idea that businesses turn to foreign labour because they are too lazy to invest in workers here.“I hear politicians say it who should know better – and pull them up on it every time - because it couldn’t be more wrong."

Ministers are not allowing long enough consultation period on immigration proposals

On the government’s post-Brexit immigration proposals published late last year, Ms Fairbairn said ministers were not allowing a long enough consultation period to fully consider the concerns of business.“The proposals published before Christmas fall far short of what our economy needs," she said. "Overseas workers on low-incomes would be able to come here only for a single year. Companies would pay immigration charges at the unaffordable rate of over £1,000 per worker, per year.“While consultation is welcome, these plans take us to within a year of when free movement is set to end. It’s simply not enough time. And it is now time to say so.“One consequence of the historic lack of informed debate about immigration in this country is a lack of understanding about the scale of overseas workers’ contribution.“So it’s up to us – the business owners, leaders and managers - to explain how overseas workers bring skill, innovation and enterprise. Any hasty attempt to cut their numbers would not only harm business, but harm our country."

Worries over what will happen if May's withdrawl deal is rejected

On next week's parliamentary vote on the withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Theresa May had reached with the EU, Ms Fairbairn said that if, as looks likely, it is defeated, the government must promptly set out how it plans to avoid a no-deal Brexit.“It’s too big a gamble to simply hope that parliament will blink at the brink (and approve the withdrawal deal)," she said. “If parliament can’t agree then it is for the government immediately to set out what it will do to avert a no-deal exit, and to guarantee this.“If the government does choose this path, we have the chance finally to move beyond the all-consuming obsessions of Brexit: to start to heal the divisions that have left communities separated and investors questioning the UK as a business destination - to address the challenges that have dogged our economy for decades.“Lifting productivity, renewing creaking infrastructure, solving our skills challenge, investing in new technology, restoring competitiveness, and making this country fairer – for everyone.”Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online DirectorySubscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all of the international assignments and global mobility news.

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