BRITAIN could issue regional work visas in a bid to solve the issue of immigration when it leaves the European Union, a study commissioned by the City of London Corporation found today (October 20).
Such a system could allay the concerns of businesses that are dependent on migrant workers as well as those opposed to free movement of labour, according to the report by consultancy PwC.
“There are skills shortage issues that need to be tackled effectively to ensure the UK remains competitive post Brexit,” said the report.
“A regional visa system is a viable, workable solution to address these issues,” it added, citing similar schemes in Australia and Canada.
Immigration was the subject of fierce debate before Britain’s June vote to leave the European Union, and Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to restrict EU immigrant arrivals as part of an eventual Brexit deal.
Cities such as London and Manchester voted to remain in the EU, with many of the businesses there benefiting from the pool of EU labour.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has given his support to the proposals to allow EU migrants to continue to locate to the British capital.
However, many of Britain’s post-industrial regions such as Yorkshire voted to leave, with some voters claiming that cheap labour had driven down wages, prompting calls for a regionally tailored work visa system.
“By allowing the regions to control immigration this will recognise the fact that the needs of London and Yorkshire will differ dramatically,” said the report.
It suggested two possible models; one in which local businesses identify regional needs before applying to the government for a visa allocation and another in which government agencies would use their expertise to directly assess requests from businesses.
Visas could either be long-term or short-term, and would also allow the dependents of succesful applicants to live and work in the region.
Those obtaining a visa would only be able to buy property in the stated region, or would be subjected to landlord checks if renting, in order to impose the policy.
They would also be subjected to a £200 ($245, 223 euros) annual fee in exchange for access to Britain’s National Health Service, under the proposal.
The report argued that regional visas could help develop areas outside London’s dominant economy, and reduce the “unchecked flow of low-skilled labour migration” from the EU.
But it warned any scheme would “require time, energy and additional costs at the outset from business.”