by LAUREN CODLING
THE government’s immigration plans post-Brexit could impose an £80 million barrier to EU students and leave more than 100,000 jobs vacant if a £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold for migrants is introduced, a new report has revealed this week.
Global Future, a thinktank which supports open trade and immigration, published analysis on the government’s immigration white paper on Monday (11).
The report, entitled Closing the Door: The True Cost of the Immigration White Paper, suggested the proposal’s call for a £30,000-a-year threshold could leave over 100,000 jobs unfilled in social care and nursing, causing the total EU workforce to shrink by 2025.
Koolesh Shah, the founder of London Town Group, called the plan “fundamentally flawed” for the hospitality industry.
Shah said the industry currently employs an estimated 70,000 EU workers, many of whom earn less than the required wage put forward by the government.
The white paper also outlined plans for a 12-month visa which would allow “tens of thousands” of low-skilled migrants to work in the UK for up to a year.
However, Shah believes the temporary visa could prove problematic.
“This type of visa could risk creating unfair opportunities in the workforce, encouraging investment in those able to stay and not for those on temporary visas,” he told Eastern Eye on Monday.
Dr Rami Ranger, founder and chairman of Sun Mark, also believes the suggested policies were “badly flawed”.
“It will not only increase the cost to the employers of employing staff, it will also discourage them to take on extra staff needed to grow their businesses,” he told Eastern Eye. “The higher wage costs will also fuel inflation which will make Britain uncompetitive.”
Dr Ranger said that due to the uncertainty around Brexit, many European employees were already leaving Britain. If UK employers were not able to fill the gap left by the European migrants, he added, many businesses may go under.
“Exerting unnecessary pressure on British employers who are already struggling will prove counterproductive,” he said. “In fact, the government’s revenue will actually decrease rather than increase due to reduced employment and productivity in Britain.”
Dr Nikhil Shah, director of London Town Group and COO of S-Cube, raised doubts about the government’s idea of placing highly paid immigrants on visas sponsored by the employer.
“Lose your employment and you must leave the country in one month? Imagine the kind of leverage a work visa gives to the employer over the employee,” he said, adding that the idea needed to be challenged in parliament.
Global Future also claimed the government’s proposals could cause “vast new barriers” for European students. The white paper has said it would end free movement and that students who chose to study in the UK would have to pay visa and health surcharge costs of almost £1,300 over a three-year period.
No competing universities would be imposing this charge, Global Future pointed out, and it would be taken across all EU students which would amount to a £79.8m annual barrier to entry.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, the founding chair of the UK-India Business Council and president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, insisted the government should maintain an open relationship with the EU which allows free movement of students and researchers.
Higher education is one of the UK’s greatest exports and international students bring an estimated £26 billion into the UK economy, Lord Bilimoria noted.
“They should be exempted from the immigration health surcharge, excluded from migration calculations and should be celebrated for all that they contribute to the UK economy and life on campuses,” the peer told Eastern Eye.
Claiming that the white paper “formalises the UK government’s longstanding hostile immigration rhetoric”, Lord Bilimoria said it would see the country face “acute” shortages in labour and trade.
“The white paper was an opportunity to show our prospective and current international students that they are welcome in the UK,” he said. “It failed to do so.”
The analysis also flagged up a potential Windrush-style scandal related to the government’s settled status scheme. The system, which is expected to open fully by March 30, is already “creaking” and “will struggle to manage more than three million applications for fresh status”.
“Even if it works, the new system will leave EU citizens with one of six different kinds of status,” the report said.
In response, a Home Office spokesman said the report’s estimated costs “are entirely
“To attract talented workers we need, we are bringing forward a new skills-based immigration system designed to drive up wages and productivity across the UK,” he
said. “This will include supporting businesses by stripping out bureaucracy through streamlining and digitising the system and committing to process the vast majority
of work visas within three weeks.”