Migration Advisory Committee

EEA Migration in the UK: Final Report Published

The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) has published its final report on the contribution of EEA migration to the UK labour market, as well as its recommendations to Government regarding the post-Brexit work immigration framework.

Background

In July 2017, the Home Secretary commissioned the MAC’s report on the current and likely future patterns of EEA migration and the impacts of that migration on the UK economy and society. The intention of the research is to provide an evidence base for the design of new immigration arrangements to be launched at the conclusion of the post-Brexit implementation period in 2021.

Over the course of seven chapters, MAC discusses a wide range of impacts of EEA migration and concludes with 14 recommendations.

Summary of findings

MAC concludes that whilst EEA migration has had impacts, many of them are insignificant when set against other changes in the economy and labour market. The impact of immigration from EU27 has perhaps been overstated in the national conversation:

EEA migration as a whole has had neither the large negative effects claimed by some nor the clear benefits claimed by others.”

Other than in the context of a negotiation with the EU on future trade (about which MAC makes no comment), EU nationals and non-EU national workers should be treated under the same rules after Brexit:

“In the event that immigration is not part of the negotiations with the EU on future trade relations, and the UK is considering its future migration system in isolation, MAC recommends moving to a system with no preferential access to EU citizens.”

The focus of the future regime should be on attracting highly skilled workers as these individuals will make the greatest contribution to the economy in line with the Government’s long term industrial strategy:

“Our recommendation is that there should be a less restrictive regime for higher-skilled workers than for lower-skilled workers in a system where there is no preference for EEA over non-EEA workers.”

MAC does not see the need for a work related scheme for lower skilled workers other than a possible exception for seasonal agricultural workers. The committee concludes that most of the existing lower skilled worker stock would remain and there would likely be a continued flow through family migration or existing Youth Mobility Scheme. This is a controversial conclusion as many stakeholders from industries with a lower earnings distribution (such as construction and hospitality) rely on the current supply of workers from EU27.

Notably, the report recommends the abolition of the Tier 2 (General) cap and consideration of the abolition, or softening, of the resident labour market test for new hires under Tier 2.  The MAC makes no comment in respect of the Government’s overarching policy of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands annually.

MAC’s 14 Recommendations for Work Migration Post-Brexit

  1. The general principle behind migration policy changes should to be to make it easier for higher skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower skilled workers.
  2. There should be no preference within the migration routes for EU citizens, on the assumption that UK immigration policy is not included in the agreement with the EU.
  3. Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).
  4. Tier 2 (General) should be open to all jobs at RQF 3 and above. The shortage occupation list will be fully reviewed in the MAC’s next report in response to the commission.
  5. Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.
  6. Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.
  7. Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market test. If not abolished, extend the number of migrants who are exempted through lowering the salary required for exemption.
  8. Review how the current Sponsor Licensing system works for small and medium sized businesses.
  9. Consult more systematically with users of the visa system to ensure it works as smoothly as possible.
  10. For lower skilled workers avoid sector based schemes (with the potential exception of a seasonal agricultural worker scheme (SAWS)).
  11. If a SAWS scheme is reintroduced, ensure upward pressure on wages via an agricultural minimum wage to encourage increases in productivity.
  12. If a “backstop” is considered necessary to fill low skilled roles extend the Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme.
  13. Monitor and evaluate the impact of migration policies.
  14. Pay more attention to managing the consequences of migration at a local level.

Next Steps

The Government has indicated that it will publish its proposals for the future immigration framework before the end of 2018. These proposals will be included within a 2018 white paper prior to publication of an Immigration Bill to be brought before Parliament in 2019.

Conclusion

The MAC report is a significant step in the process of post-Brexit immigration reform. Stakeholders in industry, as well as immigration experts, have been keenly awaiting the findings. The MAC’s role however is purely advisory. The Government must now decide policy.

Magrath Sheldrick LLP will continue to analyse immigration policy as Brexit develops. Please do not hesitate to contact your Magrath Sheldrick representative for guidance on specific issues.