‘Take us seriously on migration’ businesses tell ministers

Brexit and immigration uncertainty blamed as the manufacturing industry shows worst skills shortage since 1989. The British Chambers of Commerce and businesses frustrated as they can't attract the right skills.

Staff working in a manufacturing workshop
One of the UK's largest business organisations has told the government that it must "take seriously" companies' concerns over proposals for a post-Brexit immigration policy.

UK manufacturers facing biggest worker shortage in 30 years

The call on Thursday from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) coincided with the publication of the organisation’s latest economic survey of more than 6,000 companies, which showed manufacturing firms were experiencing the worst skills shortage since records began in 1989, with the service sector faring little better.Adam Marshall, BCC director-general, said, “Brexit is hoovering up all of government’s attention and resources, but it’s far from the only cause of uncertainty."Given the magnitude of the recruitment difficulties faced by firms clear across the UK, business concerns about the government’s recent blueprint for future immigration rules must be taken seriously – and companies must be able to access skills at all levels without heavy costs or bureaucracy.”
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Mixed reception to Immigration White Paper with concern over £30,0000 salary threshold

When the government published its post-Brexit immigration proposals last month, the BCC welcomed the fact the new policy would offer more flexibility on skill levels.However, the organisation expressed serious reservations about the wider application of charges to both employers and applicants; about the arbitrary £30,000 salary threshold; and about how the temporary worker visa scheme would work in practice.The latest economic survey highlighted "the extent to which labour shortages have risen in the UK" with an unprecedented 81 per cent of manufacturers that tried to recruit new staff reporting difficulties in finding the right skills.Things were little better in the services sector, with 70 per cent reporting recruitment problems - close to the 72 per cent high recorded last year.Overall, the survey found that the nation's economy had ended 2018 in a "weak holding pattern", with uncertainty over Brexit hitting sales, particularly domestically.

Business wants Brexit clarity in new year as uncertainty is detrimental to investment

"As Westminster prepares to return from recess, the BCC is calling on all political parties to find a way forward and ensure that the UK does not face a messy and disorderly exit from the EU," said the BCC."Avoiding a chaotic Brexit would bolster business confidence and investment, and give businesses some much-need clarity on trading conditions in the near-term."Dr Marshall added, “The UK economy is in stasis. While it’s not contracting, it’s not growing robustly either. Throughout much of 2018, UK businesses were subjected to a barrage of political noise and drama, so it’s no surprise to see firms report muted domestic demand and investment. In this new year, the government must demonstrate that it is ready to act to turbo-charge business confidence.“With little clarity on the trading conditions they’ll face in just two months’ time, companies are understandably holding back on spending and making big decisions about their futures."The government’s absolute priority now must be to provide clarity on conditions in the near term and avoid a messy and disorderly Brexit. Business communities won’t forgive politicians who allow this to happen, by default or otherwise."

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