The City’s prospects post-Brexit are being damaged by Britain’s immigration system, according to one of its leading political figures.
Restrictions on access and the controversial "hostile environment" policy for illegal migrants, now apparently abandoned, are putting off the international talent which the Square Mile will need to keep its pre-eminence after EU withdrawal, says Catherine McGuinness, chair of the Corporation of London’s key Policy and Resources Committee.
She said: “There are a number of areas where City is right at the cutting edge, but we are going to have to work really hard to keep that. And one thing we hear from India and China is questions around our immigration system and how easy it will be for people to come in.”
McGuinness added: “People are being deterred from coming here or staying here because of the message we are sending out, so we need to work on that. We are not yet being warm enough to our overseas workers.”
Her comments come on the heels of the Windrush row, in which May’s “hostile environment” immigration policy as Home Secretary was blamed after commonwealth citizens living and working in the UK were told they might face deportation due to a lack of official paperwork.
She continued: “I think it’s people like tech entrepreneurs, who might have thought of coming and setting up a business and a family here, who may now think twice, because they’re not sure we will show the same commitment to them as they will show to us.”
However, she said she was “heartened” by the comments last weekend from Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who said that he wants a “fairer, more compassionate” immigration system.
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McGuinness, who was herself once a partner in a City law firm, also slammed the “political turmoil” surrounding the government’s current Brexit negotiations, saying “we have stalled again after a very positive few months”.
She added: “It has been very interesting through this progress we have seen remarkable unity from the EU27 and the commission and we have seen disunity from this side”.