CBI says immigration plan 'does not meet UK needs'

Josh Hardie of the CBI leads criticism of Immigration White Paper voicing business concerns over how reforms to low skilled and temporary workers, visas and minimum salary requirements would be bad for the economy.

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The UK's largest business organisation has delivered a damning verdict on the government's proposals for a new immigration system when Brexit brings an end to the free movement of people across the EU.

Business and economic need for migration at odds with Brexit and reforms

Responding to the Immigration White Paper, published by the government on Wednesday afternoon, Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), described the proposals as a "sucker punch" for firms across the country.Proposals in the white paper, due to come into effect by 2021, include scrapping the current cap of 20,700 on the number of skilled workers from anywhere in the world who can come to the country; a public consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants; and the introduction of 12-month visas for lower skilled workers."A new immigration system must command public confidence and support the economy. These proposals would achieve neither," said Mr Hardie.
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Government analysis shows some regions will be poorer with immigration reforms

"The proposals outlined in the white paper don’t meet the UK’s needs and would be a sucker punch for many firms right across the country. The government’s own analysis suggests people and regions will be poorer as a result of them."The government cannot indulge in selective hearing. It tunes in to business evidence on a disastrous Brexit no deal, but tunes out from the economic damage of draconian blocks on access to vital overseas workers."The facts are clear. Brexit is cutting off the ability to recruit and retain staff for 9 out of 10 firms. Despite firms spending over £45 billion in training each year, staff shortages are already biting. Hospitals, housebuilders and retailers are all struggling to find the people they need at salaries well below £30,000."These proposals must change. And when a new system that will work is agreed, the UK must be given time to adapt. This means at least two years to implement the changes after the rules are finalised.        "Further consultation is needed to get this right for the whole of the UK, otherwise calls for devolved and regional immigration policies will only grow louder."

Visas will increase business costs and decrease migrant integration

Mr Hardie said the proposal for lower-skilled visas would needlessly increase business costs and discourage migrants from integrating into local communities, which he described as "a key social concern".He added, "All skill levels matter to the UK economy. A temporary 12-month route for overseas workers earning under £30,000 would encourage firms to hire a different person each year."Mr Hardie also said the CBI opposed the idea of introducing a new system in 2021 when it would not be workable until 2025 because "any new approach will be a major change to the labour market, and firms must have time to adapt".To secure the best trade deals around the world, Mr Hardie concluded, the UK must be willing to put migration and labour market access on the negotiating table "starting with the EU, our most significant trading partner".

Scotland point out importance of high immigration from EU

The proposals have also not gone down well with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said the plan - particularly the suggestion of a £30,000 minimum wage to qualify for a five-year visa - would be "devastating" for the Scottish economy."Our demographics make it essential that we attract people to live and work here," she said. "A reduction of 85 per cent in people coming here from EU will see our working age population decline."Apart from the serious economic damage, these proposals send a terrible message that the UK is becoming less open and welcoming and more insular. In both the development and content of these proposals, Scotland's interests have been ignored."

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