UK: The Government Must Re-Think Its Immigration Red Tape Burden For British Business

The government's immigration proposals, outlined in its White Paper, would see European workers having to obtain a sponsored visa from their employers, has not been well received by businesses, business groups or politicians. It has been universally condemned as a bureaucratic nightmare. The cost to employers of implementing the new proposals is estimated at over £1 billion by 2025 caused by time and money consuming red tape.

The think tank, Global Future, has produced a report on the government's immigration white paper which highlights the UK's dependence on EU workers describing the settled status scheme as having the potential to become another Windrush scandal; commenting that the £1 billion cost to employers is likely to be a conservative estimate; furthermore the policy creates a barrier to EU students who study in the UK and bring fresh talent to the country. International students bring £15 billion to the economy and placing economic barriers in their way will only lead to British universities losing out to the U.S., Canada and Australia.

The £30,000 salary threshold for immigrants could not be achieved by vast numbers of immigrant workers, nor would they fulfil the requirement of being "skilled", the consequence of excluding this section of the workforce would result in 100,000 unfilled jobs in social care and nursing. Likewise, the temporary one year visa will impact on such sectors as construction which will doubtless suffer from lack of continuity and lose the good workers needed to buoy up the construction market.

The interim director for external affairs at the Institute of Directors, Edwin Morgan, said "Our future success depends on playing to our strengths as an open economy, and this includes openness to international skills and talent. Businesses have a great track record of job creation in recent years and with unemployment at historic lows, there is inevitably a need for overseas workers". He further stated "the government must listen to employers as they develop their post-Brexit immigration policy, making sure it doesn't unnecessarily add to the already mounting cost burdens companies' face"

This sentiment was echoed by the director of policy and public affairs at the London Chamber of Commerce, Sean McKee stating "London is far more dependent on an international workforce that the rest of the UK. Non-UK nationals form a quarter of the workforce compare to one eighth for the rest of the UK. To ensure that London remains globally competitive it is essential that the government work with London's business groups to understand the real-term impact of their proposals on businesses". Mr. McKee added, "a new system should seek to support and enable businesses not hinder them".

A little closer to the government is Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, spokesman for home affairs, who commented that he felt that the immigration white paper's proposals were "the biggest red tape threat British businesses have ever seen. These policies would be expensive and destructive for employers across the country and Britain simply can't afford them"

The white paper appears to have been delayed by the considerable disagreement from within the government itself. The focus of cutting immigration at all costs will leave the UK at a considerable disadvantage as a skills shortage is the last thing the country needs when trying to break into new global markets once the UK has left the EU. It cannot be estimated how difficult it will be to persuade buyers in a new market that the UK businesses will be able to reliably fulfil new contractual obligations when it will be plain to the world that the UK has noticeable skills shortages. The additional financial burden of the proposed policy, which it is envisaged that businesses would shoulder 70% of the costs, would render the ability of UK businesses to successfully tender for profitable global contracts, almost impossible. The government must revisit its immigration policy which forms such a key part of the success of London and the rest of the UK's businesses. It is naive to imagine that an additional 25% of low and mid-skilled workers will spring up in the UK to pick up the skills shortage slack in the next year.

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