Businesses have hit out at the government’s new plans to tighten visa rules for workers who come to the UK from outside the EU.
Home secretary Amber Rudd told the Conservative Party Conference earlier today she is considering making it harder for UK businesses to recruit from overseas by introducing a new rigorous test to ensure “people coming here are filling gaps … not taking jobs British people could do.”
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, also said he wanted to see "British jobs for British workers" after the UK formally leaves the EU.
The proposals were met with resistance from employers groups. John Hardie, deputy director general at the CBI said: “Businesses will not welcome further restrictions on highly-skilled migration from key trading partners around the world.”
Currently, businesses can only recruit staff from outside the EU if they perform a specific job listed on the government’s “shortage occupation list” and meet minimum salary thresholds. There is also an annual cap of 20,700 on the number of company-sponsored visas which are handed out.
The latest conflict between business and government over immigration policy comes as experts warned firms and employees were already facing unprecedented uncertainty in terms of international hiring.
Consultants at PwC and EY reported clients were having difficult conversations with employees from the EU over their long-term status in the UK. While hiring was holding up, Margaret Burton, a partner at EY, told City A.M.: “There are signs, however, that EU nationals applying for new roles in the UK are raising concerns about their status if they want to settle here.”
Lindsey Barras, a partner in PwC’s immigration team, added: “There’s so little clarity on what is going to the be the situation in the future, and there’s a general feeling that businesses need to understand more the extra challenges and extra complexity.”
Theresa May has yet to confirm the long-term status of EU citizens currently living in the UK, with reports she intends to use them as a “bargaining chip” in the upcoming negotiations with the rest of the EU.
Jonathan Portes, economist and migration expert at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said the uncertainty was having a “chilling effect, making the UK a less attractive destination”. He added there were “already signs that skilled, professional Europeans are less willing to take jobs in the UK” as a result of the confusion.