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UK government’s low-skill migration plans ‘will hit social care’

Warnings of impact across economy

The UK government has unveiled plans to limit migration of low-skilled workers into the country after Brexit, with no preferential treatment for EU nationals.

The announcement had been made ahead of prime minister Theresa May's speech to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham today, and is seen as a key response to the fears about uncontrolled migration in the UK.

However the government has been warned that the plans could wreak havoc with already-stretched social care services and other key sectors, with dire consequences for the economy overall.

Health think tank the Nuffield Trust says plans to prioritise high-skilled workers from the EU – and encourage British workers to fill jobs in social care and other sectors – will put the sector under strain unless it is made much more attractive to work in.

“Figures show social care is struggling even more to get the workers needed to provide vital services, with turnover and vacancy rates continuing to rise,” it says, adding that a recent report from the government’s Migration Advisory Committee concluded that ongoing migration would be necessary to continue delivering these services.

“Either we address the financial crisis that has pushed social care providers too far into the red to pay decent wages, or we continue to allow migration to fill these gaps after Brexit,” it continues.

“If the UK government dodges these decisions in the next few months, it will mean directly endangering some of the most vulnerable people in our country.” The knock-on effect of that would no doubt be added pressure on already-strained health services.

UK pharma industry association the ABPI responded to the announcement by repeating its call for an immigration system to support the sector.

“Pharmaceutical companies rely on being able to attract and retain skilled professionals from around the world to be able to research, develop and deliver ground breaking medicines to patients.

“Post-Brexit, the UK’s immigration system must be needs-based, build on the UK’s strong academic science base, and support the UK life sciences sector to flourish.”

Jeremy Farrar

Jeremy Farrar

A more urgent warning came from Wellcome, one of the UK's most important biomedical research charities. Its director Jeremy Farrar warned at the weekend that a no deal Brexit would 'stall the NHS medical revolution' with migration curbs being of particular concern.

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that EU workers would not have preferential treatment compared with those from the rest of the world, but expressed the hope on the BBC’s Today programme that a future trade deal with the EU27 would include “mobility concessions.” That would however be subject to the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

The government is looking at implementing seasonal schemes to make it easier for agricultural workers from overseas to come to the UK after Brexit, but May said that would be an exception as too many exemptions would undermine the immigration policy.

Commenting on the plans, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Adam Marshall, said: “Ministers must recognise that businesses in every corner of the UK are facing severe skills gaps at every level, and must be able to recruit great people from both here at home and from overseas.”

He added: “Immigration policy is not just about the ‘best and brightest’, but straightforward access to the skills needed to help grow our economy.”

Meanwhile, a new report from Fitch has said that while Brexit is unlikely to precipitate any wider rift in the EU over the next decade, it will move to a ‘two-speed’ model with a centralised Eurozone and less integrated outer tier.

Further EU expansion will be sluggish, and the EU as a whole will struggle to assert its global influence “due to internal divisions, the rapidly expanding Chinese and Indian economies, and the bloc's reduced size following Brexit.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

2nd October 2018

From: Regulatory

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