Commenting on the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on EEA migration, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“From the perspective of businesses facing severe skills gaps, the MAC’s report gives with one hand and takes away with the other, and the recommendations are unlikely to meet the needs of all employers. Any sudden cut-off of EEA skills and labour would be concerning, if not disastrous, for firms across a wide range of regions and sectors.
“We support the recommendation to scrap the Tier 2 cap on skilled workers, having long called on the government to drop this non-sensical restriction on accessing the best talent from around the world. But businesses don’t just need the ‘best and brightest’ – industries such as agriculture, hospitality and social care rely on overseas labour to fill local shortages.
“Businesses will be frustrated by the Committee’s recommendation to extend the Immigration Skills Charge to EEA workers, further increasing costs at a time when three-quarters of firms are reporting skills shortages. Businesses are already questioning where this money goes and how funds are used to support vocational education here at home.
“Businesses’ experience over the years has been of an inflexible, bureaucratic and costly work permit and visa regime that has slowed or stopped them from getting the people they need to grow. The MAC is right to advise that the UK’s future system must reduce the delay, cost and bureaucracy of hiring the right people. While businesses will welcome the intention, they are less confident that the government will make this the reality. The onus is now on the government to demonstrate its willingness to deliver a streamlined, more open and flexible system that meets the needs of the UK economy
“If the MAC’s recommendations are to be put into practice without radically disadvantaging UK firms versus their global competitors, the Home Office and its agencies will require root-and-branch change. Businesses have waited long enough, the time for real action is now.”