For much of the UK, immigration was the big issue in the EU referendum. Londoners have always been slightly more relaxed. One in four workers in the capital are from overseas, and Londoners in general are far more positive about immigration than people from outside the city.
Losing London’s overseas workers, or slowing their supply, would hit the capital’s economy and UK tax revenues hard. But what works for London may not work for the rest of the country. Different areas have different skills shortages, so we believe that London and other UK regions should be able to influence the national framework, sponsoring work permits to meet their needs.
A similar system has worked well in Canada. It may sound complex, but the Home Office already distinguishes between many categories of migrant; a regional dimension would not add that much paperwork. And business as usual won’t offer the flexibility to respond to real concerns across the UK, while keeping London open to the skilled workers who drive our economy.
Denis MacShane, former minister of Europe, author of Brexit: How Britain Left Europe, and senior adviser at Avisa Partners, Brussels, says No.
There was once an Ealing comedy called Passport to Pimlico. It seems some want to bring it up to date with calls to bring in a special passport for Europeans to keep working in London.
The latest is from the London Chamber of Commerce who want the UK to issue visas to skilled workers just for London. The mind boggles. Who defines a skilled worker? Skilled in Libor trading, driving for Uber or serving in bars? Who decides – a new Office of Managed Migration or OMM? Will passports be stamped with L? What is London – the City, Oyster Card area, London boroughs? If spotted outside London, will the L worker be deported?
The bureaucracy, cost, and waiting time for every startup, investment fund, university, or dentist will be enormous. There are ways of changing the UK’s labour market to reduce dependence on foreign workers, but London or regional passports and quotas are archaic. They will drive business mad.