Business groups have slammed proposals to raise the salary threshold for immigrant workers to £36,700 after Brexit, warning the move would harm British companies.
Home secretary Priti Patel has been urged to increase the proposed salary minimum of £30,000 for all new foreign workers in a bid to protect lower skilled, UK-born employees.
But business leaders warned that the plans would stifle growth for firms in London and across the UK.
Edwin Morgan, interim director general at the Institute of Directors, said: “With unemployment at record lows, skills gaps are already holding businesses back.
“The threshold is repeatedly raised by employers as a concern, and raising the bar even higher would put another spanner in the works for firms looking to grow.”
Steven Reilly-Hii, spokesman for London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that even the £30,000 threshold would limit companies’ access to talent.
“Immigration system reform is inevitable as we leave the EU, but it’s imperative that the new system has a strong economic basis that recognises the need for continued immigration access to skills at all levels,” he said. “The proposed threshold should be coming down, not going up.”
The proposals came in a new report from right-wing think tank The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which was co-founded by Iain Duncan Smith.
The CSJ also warned that a significant increase in low-skilled immigration had pushed down wages for UK-born workers on lower incomes.
Income thresholds currently only apply to migrants from outside the EU, but are set to be extended to EU workers after Brexit.
The government has been expected to reduce the minimum salary level, but new home secretary Patel has come under pressure from parts of the Tory party to take a tougher stance.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has also criticised government plans for a salary threshold, saying they would damage London’s economy, as well as its openness and diversity.
A spokesperson for Khan said: “Far from raising the minimum salary threshold, the Mayor believes the government should instead be lowering it to £21,000 and welcoming the skilled migration that London, and the rest of the country, will desperately need post-Brexit.”
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