Britain Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to control the number of migrant workers entering the country when it leaves the European Union (EU) in 2019. In preparation, she’s asked employers to train British workers so that they will be able to fill any vacancies left by plans for diminished immigration, according to Bloomberg.
May reportedly said that Britain will welcome “the brightest and the best” from overseas, but that in the future, businesses must ensure British workers still benefit, as low-skilled immigration has lowered their wages.
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, May reportedly said: “There is a reason for wanting to ensure that we can control migration. It is because of the impact that net migration can have on people — on access to services, on access to infrastructure — but crucially it often hits those on the lower end of the income scale hardest. It’s important we bring in controls.”
Citing a leaked document, the report indicates the U.K. is gearing up to both limit and discourage incoming immigrants from the EU. The document, which was leaked to The Guardian newspaper, would enact measures to restrict immigration and make jobs for British workers a priority.
The document’s alleged contents are in line with May’s remarks, signaling a crack-down on migration. On Wednesday, May recommitted herself to getting net migration down to a Conservative target of 100,000 people a year.
May’s Torie Party wishes to regain control of the U.K.’s borders. Setting in place a new immigration policy is a priority, as the Party believes last year’s “Brexit” vote, in which the country voted to withdraw from the EU, was due to the public’s desire to tighten such rules.
According to Bloomberg:
The leaked document proposed that low-skilled migrants from the EU should be able to come to the U.K. for at most two years, with a limit of three to five years for those with more skills. Employers would be required to do more to recruit British workers. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the main opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter that the document was a “blueprint on how to strangle our economy.”
May’s spokesman, James Slack, said employers need to “do more to improve the skills of British workers and equip them with those skills, going forward.”
However, Simon Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, reportedly objected to adding that burden to employers.
“It is clear the U.K. needs an immigration system which provides control while also enabling employers to access the foreign workers they need at all levels — whether it be short-term seasonal workers, intra-company transfers or permanent positions,” Nevin wrote in an e-mail. “Businesses are not the border agency. The Home Office is not ‘taking back control’ if it expects employers to do the immigration checks for them.”
U.K. businesses have also expressed doubts about the plan. Bloomberg reports:
“The Confederation of British Industry said an open approach to the U.K.’s closest trading partners was ‘vital for business’ as it would help address key skill and labor shortages at a time when unemployment is at a 40-year low. Businesses would look for an ‘open but managed’ approach to immigration,” said Neil Carberry, CBI managing director for people and infrastructure.
“That means taking the initiative to guarantee those already here that they can stay, a transition period with limited changes so firms can plan ahead, and a final system for the EU that is simpler and more open than the complex work-permit system run for non-EEA countries,” he said in a statement.
The Food and Drink Federation, whose members often use migrant labor, was also hostile.
“Food and drink manufacturing, Britain’s largest manufacturing sector, will be alarmed,” Ian Wright, its director general, said in a statement. “If this does represent the government’s thinking, it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make — at all skill levels — across the food chain.”
The EU is not likely to approve of the measures, adding to uncertainty.
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