Danny McCance 28 Jul 2017 11:33am

Rudd announces immigration report

The home secretary Amber Rudd has announced her plans to commission a report from the Migration Advisory Committee, one year after the Brexit vote

In a letter to the Financial Times, Rudd explained her plans and used the platform to express to business and EU nationals that there will be no “cliff edge” on leaving the EU.

“We will be asking the committee to examine the British labour market, the overall role of migration in the wider economy and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy,” Rudd wrote.

“In autumn, the government will set out some initial thinking on opinions for the future immigration system.

“Put simply, the UK must remain a hub for international talent… And we must implement a new immigration system after we leave the EU that gives us control and works in all of our interests,” she concluded.

The reaction from businesses

“The government is right to launch a consultation but it is long overdue,” Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said.

“The UK voted to leave the European Union 13 months ago, and triggered Article 50 last March, yet it is only now that [the Department for Exiting the European Union] and the Home Office have turned their minds to addressing what sort of immigration policy the UK will pursue post-Brexit.

“With only six months between the deadline for the Migration Advisory Committee to submit their report and the date we leave the EU, the time frame for consultation will be very tight.

“That narrows the options for policymakers and reduces the choice for the British people in how they want to control our immigration system going forward,” Nevin added.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said, “A transitional period, after we leave the EU, is a sensible approach and will avoid any sudden cliff edge where small firms will be locked out of accessing the labour and skills they need.

“A sufficient transitional period would provide smaller firms with enough time to prepare for any incoming immigration system,” he added.

“The home secretary’s comments are certainly a step in the right direction,” Punam Birly, a partner at KPMG UK said, commenting on Amber Rudd’s promise to keep the door open for EU workers after Brexit.

“The promise of greater consultation, the desire to quantify the role of migration in supporting our wider economy, and the promise of no cliff edge will all be very warmly received,” she continued.

“My own experience of supporting clients who employ large numbers of EU citizens has also taught me what an emotive subject this is.

“Talking about how the UK wants to continue to attract the best talent and how the UK recognises the immense value that European workers bring in terms of labour, skills and ideas is vital,” she added.

“Over the coming years, changes to the UK immigration system should be based on firm evidence, input from employers, and a clear understanding of the different requirements facing each region and nation,” said Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

“While businesses are committed to filling vacancies locally wherever they can, they will still need access to both EU and global candidates with a range of skills in the future.

“Rudd has given EU nationals and their employers some much-needed reassurance, by signalling that any significant changes to the immigration rules for EU citizens will take place in an orderly fashion over time.

“Businesses need clear information to support their existing employees - and to know, right now, who they can hire with confidence over the coming years,” Marshall added.

“Less positive is the year long delay in the Migration Advisory Committee reporting on the outcome of their consultation and how it fits in with other recent government statements,” considered Birly.

“We need greater clarity now, not greater confusion.

“Very few business people are still arguing for the ‘old style’ of free movement now, but firms do need as clear a picture as possible if they are to create proper plans around retaining existing talent, bringing new people into their workforce and investing in automation where necessary”, she added.

David Noon, head of Deloitte’s Brexit advisory team said, “Access to skills is for many businesses, our own included, one of the most pressing issues they face and maintaining a diversity of skills will be essential to the UK’s status as an open and thriving economy.

“Deloitte’s recent research found around half of highly-skilled EU workers are considering leaving the UK within the next five years.

“This points to a potential skills gap opening up and a measured approach to immigration, built around the needs of the economy, will play a key role in ensuring businesses can continue attracting the skills they need.”

“Businesses will welcome any increased certainty about the post-Brexit migration system and it is encouraging that the status of EU workers has been singled out for early resolution in the Brexit negotiations,” Noon added.

"The government is likely to confirm in the autumn White Paper on immigration and Brexit that there will be a two year implementation period of a new immigration system from 2019-2021,” said Julia Onslow-Cole, global head of immigration at PwC.

“This would give business some stability and chance to adapt to forthcoming changes.

“Whilst the September 2018 reporting deadline for the Migration Advisory Committee is unprecedented, the timeline and broad nature of the questions will allow business to consider the fundamental transformation they face in the future of work and access to skills”, she concluded.

Last month, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation urged the government not to form immigration policy on “political whim".