The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) has published its landmark final report on the wide-ranging impacts of EEA migration, and its recommendations for the UK’s post-Brexit work immigration system. It is very much hoped that this report will help shape the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy. Indeed, the government has since confirmed it will “carefully consider” the MAC’s proposals.

The report concludes that EEA migration, as a whole, has had impacts, but these impacts are generally small in magnitude in comparison with other changes. By way of example, the MAC highlighted the fall in the pound post-referendum in 2016, which has had more of an effect on prices than the total EU migration since 2004.

The MAC has suggested that, if the UK is in a position to decide the main features of its own immigration policy, there should be a less restrictive policy in place for higher-skilled workers than for lower-skilled workers. This is on the basis that higher-skilled workers tend to have higher earnings, so generally make a more positive contribution to the economy. This increase in higher-skilled migration would most likely result in a shift which aligns itself with the Government’s industrial strategy, published in 2017.

The MAC’s recommendations generally relate to work migration. The report recommends using the Government’s existing Tier 2 (General) policy as a template, but does, however, recommend bringing about changes to it. Firstly, the report has called on the Government to abolish the limit on highly-skilled workers altogether, on the basis that it creates uncertainty amongst employers. It has been reported that approximately 20,700 highly-skilled workers migrate to the UK from non-EU countries alone.

Secondly, the report recommends extending this policy to medium-skilled workers too. This should not result in any changes to the salary thresholds – this would ensure downward pressure is not exerted on average earnings. Any changes to the salary threshold would, in all likelihood, result in a less positive contribution to the UK economy.

However, the MAC did not find a need to change the policy for lower-skilled workers, save for a seasonal agricultural workers scheme. The report states that this would not stem the supply of lower-skilled migrant workers, as the existing pool of lower-skilled workers would remain, and lower-skilled workers would still be able to work in the UK by virtue of the family migration and youth mobility scheme. The MAC appreciates, however, that this is likely to be lobbied against extensively by some sectors.

The MAC cautions that, whilst the report is not intended to directly affect highly-skilled workers, there is a chance that this could still occur indirectly by attempting to restrict other types of migration. The MAC recommends that the Government should engage in a more collaborative way with migrants and other users of the system to ensure it is fit for purpose. Finally, the report warns against regional variation in salary thresholds.