U.K. Business Pleads to Shape Post-Brexit Immigration System

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(Bloomberg) -- U.K. business is lobbying for a say in shaping Britain’s post-Brexit immigration system as the government draws up plans for tighter controls on migration that could threaten the supply of foreign workers.

In an open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, the country’s five largest business organizations and about 30 trade associations said the new regime needs to provide access to required skills and labor, while also curbing the inward flow of people.

An increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric since the Brexit vote has alarmed business executives used to decades of unfettered movement of staff between the U.K. and the continent. Industries such as construction, hospitality and the National Health Service are especially at risk from a lack of skilled foreign workers.

“The economy needs a simple, streamlined and affordable system that meets business’s needs,” said the letter, whose signatories included the chiefs of the Confederation of British Industry, the Scotch Whisky Association and the UK Fashion & Textile Association. “Insight from enterprise can help.”

The Leave campaign’s promise to end free movement from the EU helped it win the 2016 Brexit referendum. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is proposing a points-based system that prioritizes higher-skilled workers. In 2018, the government proposed a minimum salary threshold of 30,000 pounds ($39,000) for migrants under the new system. Business groups say that level is too high.

They also want the government to introduce temporary visas to plug important skills gaps and simplify the sponsorship process when hiring from overseas.

A parliamentary committee is due to publish a report next week on how the new immigration system would work, and Johnson’s government will set out its detailed proposals in March. He aims to have the new regime up and running by Jan 1. 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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