Britain’s biggest business groups have offered the government their help in designing the post-Brexit immigration system amid fears that a more closed-off system could hurt UK firms.
They warned that the new system must provide “access to the labour and skills needed to support the economy” in an open letter to home secretary Priti Patel.
The letter was signed by the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and Make UK as well as around 30 trade associations.
The new Conservative government has been pulled in different directions over immigration. Businesses believe a more open system is necessary to supply workers, but many Brexit voters in the Tories’ new-found seats in the midlands and north favour lower levels.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will adopt an Australian-style points-based system that will judge potential immigrants based on what the government thinks they would add to the economy.
In their open letter, the business groups today welcomed reports that the government will scrap the £30,000 salary floor for skilled workers and a strict net migration target.
It said the changes “are welcome and have sent positive and important signals around the world that the UK is open for business”.
In a pitch to Patel, they said: “Insight from enterprise can help build a points-based model that provides greater control, whilst providing access to the labour and skills needed to support the economy.”
The business groups laid out four key priorities for the post-Brexit system. Firstly, they said: “A minimum salary threshold can work if it is set at a level that supports the economy and protects wages.”
They went on to advocate flexibility for skilled workers to enter Britain through a points-based system; a temporary visa route to support all the economy’s sectors; and a radically reformed sponsorship process.
The letter said the groups realised that high levels of immigration are not popular with everyone in Britain, saying: “The immigration system must change in order to rebuild public confidence.”
But they said the new system must meet “business’ needs of all sizes, sectors and across all UK regions and nations”.