No preferential treatment for EU citizens - Migration Advisory Committee Report on EEA migration published

Top immigration lawyers in London weren’t the only cohort to eagerly anticipate the publication yesterday of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on EEA Migration in the UK. As the organisation with a key role in influencing immigration policy within the UK, the content of the MAC report has been long awaited by politicians, business owners and workers within the UK. No doubt too, outside the UK, the report has been anticipated as something to evidence what the UK’s future intentions as regards immigration policy may be following Brexit.

As most immigration lawyers recognise, while a huge part of the Brexit vote was around immigration, the reality, recognised in the MAC report, is that “…(EU) migrants have no or little impact on the overall employment and unemployment outcomes of the UK-born workforce…”. Not only that but EU migration to the UK is beneficial to productivity and innovation within the UK. That didn’t stop a tide of anti-immigration rhetoric sweeping through the debate leading up to the Brexit referendum. It seems that the Migration Advisory Committee is keen to move away from any system that gives preferential treatment to EU citizens once the UK leaves the EU. The MAC report recommends extending the Tier 2 general visa to EU citizens along with everyone else.

 

In order for the Tier 2 system to work so that gaps in the UK workforce are effectively plugged, the ‘cap’ of 20.700 will have to be lifted to ensure sufficient numbers of workers can come to the UK. The MAC report also recognises the need for an easing of the Resident Labour Market Test – currently required in respect of many roles to prove there is no settled worker able to take the role before recruitment from overseas – and suggests lowering the minimum salary level for skilled workers.

Whether a new system along these lines will be adopted, or if adopted, prove effective, remains to be seen. The rejection of any kind of preferential treatment of EU citizens suggests that the MAC report do not see immigration from the EU/EEA as part of the crucial Brexit deal that is currently being negotiated. Yet, for many, any kind of trade deal with the EU is expected to include some form of agreement on the movement of EU citizens. The report also fails to recognise the reliance of the UK’s labour market on both skilled and unskilled workers from the EU. The recent announcement that a form of temporary visa for 2,500 agricultural workers will be available under a pilot scheme completely ignores the fact that the UK’s farming industry relies on around 11,500 overseas workers, many of whom came from the EU.

There are many unknowns facing the UK’s immigration policy for the future, not least the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Whether the solution suggested in the MAC report will be adopted and prove adequate is something only time will tell. We will keep our blog updated with further developments.

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