Home Office’s EU labour report welcomed by sector

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Amber Rudd commissioned an assessment of the EU nationals' role in the UK economy (Flickr/DECCgovuk)
Amber Rudd commissioned an assessment of the EU nationals' role in the UK economy (Flickr/DECCgovuk)

Related tags European union Eu

The announcement by the Home Office that it will commission an assessment of the role EU nationals play in the UK economy and society, has been welcomed by business groups.

Manufacturers would see the report as a first step in managing labour after Brexit, said EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

“This is a welcome announcement which reflects industry’s concerns,”​ said EEF director of employment and skills policy Tim Thomas.​ “Manufacturers rely heavily on EU workers as well as non-EU nationals to fill crucial roles within their businesses and any immediate restriction in this supply would only exacerbate the current skills crisis in the sector.

“Many Manufacturers will see today’s ​[July 27] announcement as a first step, with the government for the first time acknowledging that future migration changes will be implemented in a measured way over a period of years. Whilst this announcement was much needed, the fate of EU nationals already in the UK before Brexit now needs to be settled quickly, positively and conclusively.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the immediate priority for Brexit talks was securing the rights of UK and EU citizens’ reciprocal rights. The review, commissioned by the Home Office, was the first step to agreeing those rights, it said.

‘Longer-term questions’

CBI deputy director general Josh Hardie said: “The committee’s review will be vital to address longer-term questions.

“Given the importance of mobile skills and labour for the UK economy, firms will want the review to move at pace and include the views of all sectors. Businesses urgently need to know what a new system will look like – during transition and afterwards.”

The organisations’ comments came after home secretary Amber Rudd revealed she was asking the government’s independent advisor on migration, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), to evaluate non-UK EU nationals’ role in the UK.

The MAC will examine the overall role of migration in the wider economy, and how the UK’s immigration system could be aligned with a modern industrial strategy. It will focus on skill levels, industry sectors, agency, temporary and seasonal workers.

The assessment will be completed in September 2018, the Home Office said.

‘Take control of immigration’

“Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to take control of immigration from the EU,”​ said Rudd. “We will ensure we continue to attract those who benefit us economically, socially and culturally.

“But, at the same time, our new immigration system will give us control of the volume of people coming here – giving the public confidence we are applying our own rules on who we want to come to the UK and helping us to bring down net migration to sustainable levels.”

But, critics questioned why it took more than a year after the Brexit vote for government to break its silence on the future of migration.

Chair of the Home Affairs select committee, and former Labour cabinet member, Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s World at One​ programme: “Of course it’s right to have evidence-based policy and to commission this review.

“But, I’m frankly flabbergasted that it has taken them 13 months to ask these very basic questions about EU migration, and about the impact on different sectors.”

Issues MAC will examine:

  • The current patterns of European Economic Area migration, including which sectors are most reliant on EU labour
  • The economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the UK economy
  • The potential impact of a reduction in EU migration and the ways in which both business and the government could adjust to this change
  • The current impact of immigration, from both EU and non-EU countries, on the competitiveness of UK industry and skills and training
  • Whether there is any evidence that the availability of unskilled labour has led to low UK investment in certain sectors
  • If there are advantages to focusing migrant labour on high-skilled jobs 

Related topics People & Skills Services

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