Brexit secretary David Davis tonight said leaving the EU will give the UK a a bigger pool to fish in” for labour, in a striking contrast to the government’s stated position of reducing net immigration to the “tens of thousands”.
Speaking to luminaries from across the business world at the City A.M. Awards, Davis said: “While leaving the EU will allow us to bring back control of immigration, it won’t mean pulling up the drawbridge.”
Reducing immigration was a central concern for many voters during the EU referendum in June 2016, with the official Vote Leave campaign arguing leaving the EU would allow the UK to “take control” of its borders.
However, the government wants to make employing EU citizens “as easy as possible” after Brexit, Davis claimed.
Davis said: “We want EU citizens to continue coming to live and work here after Brexit.”
Meanwhile, Davis said the importance of the City is a top concern in Brexit negotiations, as he sought to persuade bosses that leaving the EU will not harm financial services’ competitiveness.
Davis said: “When I sit round the negotiating table with Michel Barnier, or round the Cabinet table with my colleagues, it’s with the importance of the City very much in my mind.”
Some City leaders have expressed frustration that the Department for Exiting the EU, which Davis leads, has been slow to listen to concerns from the Square Mile over the Brexit approach.
However, Davis sought to reassure that London’s financial services will not lose out, while setting an ambitious target to secure trade deals on services.
Free-trade agreements covering services are relatively rare in comparison to those dealing with goods, often owing to high regulatory complexity.
The UK can “use our new independent trade policy to agree deals that are better suited to the UK, especially in the services sector,” Davis said.
“That is the real prize on offer from Brexit,” he added.
The Brexit secretary also made time for a joke at the expense of his former Cabinet colleague, Priti Patel, who was forced to resign after unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli politicians, businessmen and lobbyists.
Davis said: “I haven’t seen this many dealmakers in a room since I went on holiday with Priti Patel.”
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