Priti Patel assailed British companies for being “far too reliant” on “low-skilled” and “cheap” labour” from the European Union. The home secretary asserted that business houses would have to invest more on British workers as per post-Brexit rules.
The statements regarding new policy shifts came on Monday (27), just days after Chancellor Sajid Javid had declared “there will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker” and that the divergence from EU rules would not be “just for the sake of it”.
Patel’s comments gained prominence as policy-makers were awaiting the Migration Advisory Committee’s report, which would shape the post-Brexit immigration system.
Notably, prime minister Boris Johnson had recently pledged to introduce a points-based immigration system, like in Australia, from January 2021 when freedom of movement from the EU would end.
Businesses, meanwhile, had been urging the government to go soft on the issue of low-skilled migrants, citing fears of staff shortage. The government, however, stuck to its gun.
Speaking to Sky News, Patel summed it up: “We think it is about time that businesses started to invest in people across the whole of the United Kingdom, that they join us and our agenda to level up the skills, the infrastructure, the economic growth across all our regions, promote growth across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
She described the proposed points-based immigration as “one of the key opportunities” that the UK could explore post Brexit. “Yes, supporting the brightest and the best but also encouraging the British industry to do more to invest in capital, in people, in human capital and the skills that our country and our economy needs in the long run,” she elaborated.
Patel trashed reports of an intra-government schism on post-Brexit divergence from the EU rules laid out in Brussels. Reports had said there was no consensus the extent of divergence, as some leaders opined that big changes could affect exports to the bloc.
“There is no disagreement in government at all,” stated Patel. “We are clear we are leaving, we will be taking back control of our laws, our money and our borders.”
Reiterating Javid’s words, Patel stressed that there was no question of alignment. “We will be diverging,” she said. “We want to take control of our laws, money, our borders and to do that we will not be rule takers. We will be setting our own laws and that is a fundamental feature of leaving the European Union.”