The ‘MAC’ has made recommendations to the government about what the UK migration system should look like if there is a full departure from the EU.
In July 2017 the Home Secretary commissioned MAC to report on the current and predicted patterns of migrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) and the impact of their migration. The report is 140 pages long with 7 annexes and should inform the development of a new migration system from 1 January 2021.
A key point of the report is that the impacts of migration must not be considered in a vacuum, and should be understood within the context of wider government policy.
The report addresses a range of impacts including wages, employment and training. Below we have summarised the impacts which MAC believe migration has had upon the UK labour market, their recommendations for a future migration system, and the likely effects these recommendations would have if they were put into action.
Identified labour market impacts
- The MAC found that migrants do not have any substantial impact on employment or unemployment among the UK-born workforce.
- Migration also does not have any material impact on the wages of UK-born workers.
- If immigration is not part of the UK’s negotiations with the EU, MAC recommends moving to a system which does not give preferential access to EU citizens.
- There should be a less restrictive regime for ‘higher-skilled’ workers than for ‘lower-skilled’ workers.
- The existing Tier 2 (General) scheme could act as a template, with some changes, in particular the abolition of the annual cap and an extension to workers in medium-skilled jobs (Level 4 RQF).
- The Government should reduce the bureaucratic burden of the system and engage with users of the system to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Effects of recommendations
- Free movement is most likely to end when the UK leaves the EU. With this in mind, it may be sensible for employers to consider how they plan to retain staff that are EEA migrants or prepare contingency plans training more UK-born workers.
- The report reinforces the fact that free movement was not a political issue before 2004, and ending free movement would not make the UK unusual. Also, ending free movement would not mean that EEA citizens would need a visa for travel. However, it would mean that EEA citizens would require a visa to work in the UK.
- There may be less protection for lower-skilled jobs, which are often filled by EU nationals
- The system will benefit employers who are sponsor licence holders and more employers may be encouraged to join the scheme.
The key recommendation, which may prove to be controversial, is that the UK moves to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens. This would mean an end to free movement. Employers would need to consider this in their training and recruitment policies.
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