The key Immigration takeaways from the PM’s speech at the annual CBI conference

During his speech at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference on 21 November 2022, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made several immigration-related announcements. Of particular note, the PM dismissed reports that the UK would seek an arrangement with the EU similar to that between the EU and Switzerland, which allows for the free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU.

This is a clear indication that the government is not seeking a long-term deal with the EU to reintroduce elements of freedom of movement. Whilst there is a growing call from businesses to open up migration routes as a solution to the widespread labour shortages across the economy, the government is highly unlikely to pursue a Swiss style deal with the EU as this would likely involve joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which would require the UK to participate in the single market, and thereby align with EU laws. Such close alignment with the EU so shortly after leaving would be a highly charged debate and create significant disagreement, not only in Westminster but across the UK.

A more likely solution is to include the EU27 and EFTA members in the Youth Mobility Scheme, although this is still some way off.

The PM also reaffirmed his commitment to create regulatory environment that would be designed to foster innovation in sectors like artificial intelligence (AI), life sciences and financial services.

As part of this commitment, the PM confirmed that he would ensure that British businesses would have access to the best and brightest talent from around the world by creating one of the world’s most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people. The PM also stated that he would be launching a program to identify and attract the world’s top 100 young talents in AI.

As with most policy announcements of this nature the details are sparce, however we expect that the Home Office will make more detailed announcements in the Spring to coincide with the usual updates to the immigration rules that take place in April.