The big Brexit question – will Theresa May’s new immigration system proposal serve employers’ best interests?
After Brexit, Theresa May wants a work environment that places more emphasis on skilled immigration workers because she believes this is what will work best for UK businesses.
But do businesses across the country support her view?
If your business is employing EU nationals you are most likely to be concerned about Theresa May’s new immigration system proposal if her Brexit deal with the EU is agreed on Tuesday 11 December 2018.
If the Brexit deal passes through parliament, Theresa May wants a future immigration system that will no longer allow EU workers to be favoured over workers coming from other countries in the world.
According to Theresa May, there will be no more ‘jumping the queues’ for EU nationals. Once the Brexit deal has gone through and Britain has left the EU, the country and national immigration authorities will be fully in control of who will be allowed to come and work in the UK.
The Prime Minister says that she wants to attract the “brightest and best” from all over the world. Skilled migrants, for example engineers from Sydney or software developers from India, will find British job opportunities much more attractive and accessible in the years to come.
One of the benefits EU nationals have enjoyed in the past has been the freedom to work anywhere in the EU regardless of their skills and experience. In the future it looks like focus will be on skills and on what the person has to offer rather than where a person comes from.
Is Theresa May’s thinking aligned with that of the UK’s business directors?
The CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn is concerned that Theresa May is not listening to what businesses want, and points out that firms across the country would need time to adapt to a new immigration system where free movement of people is no longer the case and that a new immigration system represents a seismic shift. She says, “A false choice between high- and low-skilled workers would deny businesses, from housebuilders to healthcare providers, the vital skills they need to succeed”.
Chief Executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer says that he is hugely concerned about Theresa May’s bias towards skilled workers. The British health sector may need to increase the number of UK trained health professionals, especially nurses.
He is concerned that cutting off the recruitment route for lower skilled, lower wage workers into the UK will most likely cut off the supply of nurses and care workers from overseas which could be extremely damaging to the health sector.
So, what is the logic behind the new immigration system proposal?
Theresa May claims that young people are going to benefit from the new system giving them greater access to training and skilled employment. Also, it would encourage businesses and employers to help deliver placements to students and to deliver technical training opportunities to students taking the new T-level qualifications.
She says, “For them, it could be an amazing opportunity to build their skills, learn from your team, and test out what they have learned in an industrial environment. For you it is an opportunity to build the pipeline of skilled young people coming into your industry – broadening and deepening your skills base.”
Theresa May sets out a political long-term perspective, but it is a concern that UK firms still need to sell their products and services and the large UK export market will have to survive until the skilled students can help! This is also the case for the health sector, the entrepreneurs and all the other UK businesses for whom lower skilled workers from abroad are vital for their survival.
The big question continues to be unanswered – for now…