New immigration laws must lure global talent, says CBI

Proposals for a radical overhaul of the UK's post-Brexit immigration system have been put forward by the CBI after taking evidence from 129,000 firms across 18 industry sectors.

Colourful business people walking
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report, 'Open and Controlled – A New Approach to Migration', calls on the government to scrap its target of bringing annual net migration to below 100,000 and advocates a reformed immigration system "so that firms can better access people and skills from around the world, not just the EU".Pointing out that EU27 citizens would remain "profoundly important" to the future of the UK economy, the report said that a new system should be based on criteria that ensured people coming to the UK make a positive contribution to the economy.It proposed a post-Brexit system for EU nationals based on registering individuals on arrival and then allowing them to stay for three months, after which they would have to leave unless they could prove they were employed, studying or otherwise financially self-sufficient."Most credible economic studies show that immigration delivers net economic benefits for the UK. Foreign workers put in more than they take out. Their taxes – which pay for schools, hospitals and roads – outweigh the benefits they receive. And, as the Office for Budget Responsibility notes, higher net migration reduces pressure on government debt," said the CBI."This significant consultation with businesses of all sizes shows the inter-connectedness of different sectors, highlighting just how important migration is to all parts of the UK economy, at all skills levels."Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said that, with free movement ending when Britain leaves the EU, there was a real need for an "honest and open debate" on immigration, which, he said, had so far been absent from political considerations.He added, “The needs are more complex than only ensuring that the UK can attract the ‘brightest and best’. Housebuilding needs architects for design, labourers to dig foundations and electricians to help finish the job. In the food and drink sector, the supply chain starts with agriculture, then logistics and ends with retail.“For Global Britain to succeed, the UK must send the right signals that show it remains open and welcoming to the world. That means putting migration on the table in trade talks to get us a better deal, first with the EU and then other countries where it is clear existing visa restrictions inhibit trade and foreign direct investment. Many sectors are already facing shortages, from nurses to software engineers – so fast, sustainable, evidence-based action is needed.”Reacting to the report, Vinous Ali, head of policy at TechUK, commented, “The UK tech sector is thriving, growing at more than double the rate of the wider economy. At the heart of this success story is people. Post-Brexit the UK must retain its position as a talent magnet – drawing in the talent and skills we need to continue to grow and innovate. This means recognising and responding to the positive impact of immigration – to our economy as well as our communities." “This report provides some tangible policy recommendations that can help restore trust in our immigration system. We hope that the government will reflect on these proposals and ensure that we continue to attract the talent we need to deliver its vision of Global Britain.”However, a Home Office spokesman said the government would not abandon its manifesto commitment to reduce net migration from its current level of about 240,000 a year to the tens of thousands.He added, "After we leave the EU, we will end free movement and put in place a system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK. We are considering a range of options that will ensure that we are in control of our borders and managing migration, while continuing to attract and retain people who come here to work and bring significant benefits."The Migration Advisory Committee is due to publish its recommendations for a post-Brexit immigration system next month with the government, after repeated delays, set to outline policy proposals early next year.

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