James Moore: Theresa May's migrant student plans to 'send 'em all back' is economic insanity

Outlook: If firms feel they can’t get staff here, they’ll invest elsewhere

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The Independent Online

Manufacturers are all the rage in modern Britain. After years of neglect the political classes have decided they love them, given the rather important role they need them to play in rebalancing the economy away from its over-reliance on banking and the City of London.

So it might be a good idea to listen to what they have to say every now and again. Here’s their leading trade body, the EEF, on the Government’s plan to “send ‘em all back”. At least if they’re students, who’ve finished their degrees (and handed over their fees).

The EEF’s head of employment policy Tim Thomas said the proposal “flies in the face of the concept of Britain being open for business”.

And there’s more: “Far from pushing international talent towards our global competitors, we should be focusing on proposals that support employers who need to recruit graduates from UK universities, wherever they come from. They are skilled people and industry needs them.”

His point about skills is well made. The CBI sees a bright outlook for employment over the next year, but is increasingly concerned about the skills gap. It worries that key posts are going to be left unfilled and that this could act as a break on growth.

Ah, but the member for Little England Central says, if we close the doors we Brits will rise up to the challenge. The trouble is it isn’t happening. Governments of various hues have been banging on about closing the skills gap for years, with little apparent success. And if companies feel they can’t get the staff they want here, they’ll invest their money elsewhere.

But it gets worse. Young, highly skilled, migrants contribute far more in taxes than they take out (and tend to pay higher rates of tax, too). They help with the deficit in the short term, and assist with the longer term fiscal challenge presented by an ageing population.

By attempting to stem the flow of this highly attractive group of migrants, the Government is quite literally engaged in an exercise in economic insanity. The business community is quite right to raise the issue.

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