Brexit: UK economy ‘sleepwalking into a disaster’ without regional immigration policy

Different regions must have powers to determine their own skills needs after the UK leaves the EU, experts tell the Lords

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Tuesday 28 February 2017 20:44
Different regions have very different needs and must be able to determine their own quotas, experts said
Different regions have very different needs and must be able to determine their own quotas, experts said

The UK economy is “sleepwalking into a disaster” unless the country adopts a nuanced regional immigration policy to fill the skills gap left by lower immigration after Brexit, a Parliamentary Committee was told on Tuesday.

Professor Robert Wright, Professor at the University of Strathclyde told committee members a Canadian system which allows different regions to independently identify required skills and set quotas for different professions would work in the UK.

Such a system would allow the UK to both attract the skills it needs and assuage local fears about influxes of unskilled migrants driving down wages in particular areas while not integrating culturally, he said.

“Canada has one million people waiting up to four years on its points-based system, but if you have a skill that is needed in a particular state, you jump the queue. Who wants to wait four years?” He asked the Economic Affairs Committee.

“Everyone might want to go to Toronto or London, maybe they don’t want to go to Edinburgh but the key to immigration policy is to get people to where they are needed in the first place. Once they are there they tend to stay,” Professor Wright, who was born in Canada but has lived in Scotland since 1991 told the committee.

While some areas of the country expressed a clear desire for less immigration which must be listened to, London would “grind to a halt” without a continued flow of both high and low-skilled labour allowed into the country, said Colin Stanbridge chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce.

A quarter of London workers were born outside the UK, Mr Stanbridge said, while in vital industries such as construction the figure is as high as 36 per cent.

In Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, 90 per cent of population growth in the last ten years has been from non-Scottish-born migrants, meaning a “worrying dependency ratio” of workers to non-workers would open up if immigration is significantly curtailed, Lord Kerr said.

Chris Murray, Reasearch Fellow at think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said “There are clear divergences are opening up on migration and I think the referendum as a flash of illumination at how far apart different parts of the country are going [on the issue].”

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