UK: White Paper sets out post-Brexit rules for migrants
Low-skilled workers from EU countries will no longer have the automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit, under proposed new immigration rules.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the plans – to be published later – will not include a “specific target” for reducing numbers coming into the UK.
But they would bring net migration down to “sustainable levels”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
There was “no reason to think” the plans would harm the economy, he added.
Asked repeatedly if the government was sticking to its manifesto commitment to bring annual net migration down to the tens of thousands, Mr Javid would only say “the objective is to bring net migration down to more sustainable levels”.
He said most people would agree the current level, 273,000, was “very high” and it should be cut to a level that “meets first our economic need but at the same time is not too high a burden on our communities or infrastructure”.
He said the new immigration system would be based around skills rather than where people came from and would be the “biggest shake-up in 40 years”.
The much-delayed White Paper is expected to include:
- Scrapping the current cap on the number of skilled workers such as doctors or engineers from the EU and elsewhere
- A consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas
- Low-skilled workers may be able to apply for short-term visas of up to a year
- Plans to phase in the new system from 2021
The White Paper is due to be published at 10:30 GMT, with Mr Javid describing it as “delivering on the clear instruction to get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people.
“It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business.”
No cap on high-skilled workers
The White Paper will introduce a new visa route for skilled migrants, from Europe and beyond.
It accepts a recommendation from the independent Migration Advisory Committee to scrap the current limit of 20,700 on workers classed as high-skilled coming to the UK using “Tier 2” visas.
Tier 2 is the name for general work visas for people from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland who have been offered a skilled job in the UK. Eligible professions include nurses and doctors.
There will be a consultation about the salary threshold of £30,000 amid opposition to such a cap from business and some cabinet members.
The £30,000 minimum earnings rule already applies to non-EU workers in most Tier 2 visa cases but could also apply to migrants from the EU.
Extending it to skilled migrants could affect the NHS’s ability to recruit the staff it needs, the body representing NHS trusts has warned.
NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We are deeply concerned about what is going to happen. High skills does not equal high pay.
“You have got starting salaries for nurses at £23,000 – also for paramedics, midwives. Junior doctors starting salaries at £27,000, healthcare assistants at £17,000, all coming in way below that £30,000 cap.
“It is not just health workers, it is social care as well. We have to remember where the skills lay. They lay in those staff under £30,000.”
Mr Javid said: “We are not setting the exact threshold today. There will be a threshold.”
He added: “We will consult further on whether it is £30,000 or thereabouts.”
Lobby group the Confederation of British Industry has previously called for net migration targets to be scrapped amid fears that reducing low-skilled immigration could damage business.
“The UK risks having too few people to run the health service, pick food crops or deliver products to stores around the country,” it warned in August.
Earlier this year, the government announced foreign medics would be excluded from the government’s cap on Tier 2 high-skilled migrants, which is now to be scrapped completely.
The cap on the number of Tier 2 visas for high-skilled workers has been in place since 2011. Until December 2017, it had only been exceeded once, in June 2015, but recently it has been hit for several months in a row.
NHS workers make up 40% of all Tier 2 places, the government said.
In February this year, NHS England said it had 35,000 nurse vacancies and nearly 10,000 doctor posts unfilled.