The cap on the number of high-skilled migrants should be scrapped post-Brexit, according to a new report, commissioned by the Home Secretary, from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
The report found that high-skilled migrants have a clear benefit to existing UK residents, while the same cannot be said of lower-skilled migrants. As such, it recommends providing greater access to higher-skilled migration, while restricting access for lower-skilled workers.
It stated: “If the UK decides on its new immigration system in isolation from the negotiations about the future relationship with the European Union (EU), we do not see compelling reasons to offer a different set of rules to European Economic Area (EEA) and non-EEA citizens.
“A migrant’s impact depends on factors such as their skills, employment, age and use of public services, and not fundamentally on their nationality.”
The report outlined that, if free movement ends, EEA migrants with a job offer should be subject to the tier two system – the same system used by non-EEA migrants. As such, all migrant employees would need a work permit to come to the UK to work.
The report recommended that, if free movement does end for EEA citizens after Brexit, then the tier two (general) cap should be abolished; medium-skilled jobs should become eligible for tier two general; the £30,000 salary threshold should be retained but the list of eligible occupations expanded.
It also said, that in this case, the Immigrations Skills Charge should cover EEA citizens; the Resident Labour Market Test should be abolished and it should be made easier for tier two migrants to change employers in-country.
For low-skilled workers, the report does not recommend introducing an explicit work migration route. However, there may be an exception for seasonal agricultural workers and it does recommend an expanded youth mobility scheme for low-skilled migrant workers.
Professor Alan Manning, chair of the committee, said: “There is no way to change the migration system without creating winners and losers, but we believe the UK should focus on enabling higher-skilled migration coupled with a more restrictive policy on lower-skilled migration in the design of its post-Brexit system.”