Brexit immigration report ignores the needs of construction industry

Business leaders have criticised a government Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report that suggests that foreign workers should earn more than £30,000 to be eligible for a UK working visa after Brexit. No preferential treatment will be offered to European Union citizens under the scheme.

The report has been described by some as “elitist and ignorant” and has been slammed by housebuilders, hauliers and the hospitality sector, all of whom rely on lower paid workers - many from the EU. The report recommends that there would be no explicit work migration route for low skilled workers.

Brian Berry, the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders has warned that the change would cripple his industry. He says that it is not clear how EU workers who have skills that are currently in short supply, such as bricklaying and carpentry, will not fall foul of the rules and the limited definition of a highly skilled worker. He says that it is crucial the industry has access to varying levels of skilled workers, regardless of where they are from, due to the already high employment levels in the UK.

The MAC committee chairman Alan Manning has pointed out that their recommendation would be for a less restrictive regime for higher skilled workers and that lower-skilled workers do not need a work-related visa scheme.

The report says that the current 2 tier scheme which applies to those outside of the EU for skilled workers earning more than £30,000 could be a template for a migration scheme following Brexit. It is also suggested that the government could make arrangements for an EU scheme linked to trade as part of the exit negotiations. However, the Construction Industry Migration Working group points out that red tape could limit construction by SMEs who would struggle to navigate the system of recruiting.

Stephen Clarke, a senior economist from the Resolution Foundation has pointed out that if used, these proposals would effectively end low skilled migration and prioritise mid and high skilled migration in areas where a labour shortage exists.