Migration Advisory Committee Commission To Review UK Labour Market

On 27th July 2017, the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) to produce a comprehensive report on the impact of EU and EEA migration on the UK labour market in the context of both the UK’s exit from the European Union and its Modern Industrial Strategy.

Context

In March 2017 the government evoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty thereby commencing the two year negotiation period prior to the UK’s exit from the European Union.  In their election manifesto, published in May 2017, the Conservative Party reiterated its overarching immigration policy of achieving “sustainable levels” of net migration over the course of each twelve month period.  The Prime Minister has made clear that this means net migration of tens of thousands annually. This policy was introduced into government in 2010 but has never been achieved.

In her letter to the MAC, the Home Secretary acknowledges that migration benefits the UK, economically, culturally and socially.  She emphasises that businesses, agriculture, public services and universities all rely on migration for labour, skills and ideas.  She confirms that in a post Brexit environment, the UK must remain a “hub for international talent”.

The MAC’s role will be to provide government with the detailed facts and evidence to inform the creation of a new regulatory architecture that will serve to reduce net migration whilst providing the country with the skilled workers required for it to compete as an autonomous state.

Immigration Bill

The government is committed to presenting to Parliament an Immigration Bill to repeal the current EU-derived free movement provisions so that, post Brexit, EU citizens will fall within the scope of domestic UK immigration rules and requirements that will be established according to the UK’s economic and social needs.  This Bill must be drafted, presented and passed before a potential Brexit date of March 2019. The scale and scope of the commission to the MAC is enormous. In order to develop and implement a new legislative architecture for control of EU migration, the government must have a comprehensive understanding of the current impact of this migration on the various sectors, regions and activities that currently benefit from EU workers.

The complex and diverse nature of the national immigration debate, coupled with the government’s precarious post-election parliamentary arithmetic, will create an arduous and potentially rancorous political process.

The Questions

The Home Secretary has invited the MAC to consider a number of far reaching questions in order to produce their extensive advice.  The commission is divided into two parts:  EU and EEA Migration and Aligning the UK immigration system with a Modern Industrial Strategy. 

The questions for the MAC to consider are as follows:

EU and EEA migration

“Drawing on existing sources where appropriate, the MAC should set out current patterns of EU and EEA migration, looking at:

–          Sectors;

–          Regional distribution;

–          Skill levels;

–          Duration of assignments;

–          Self-employment;

–          Entrepreneurs;

–          Part-time;

–          Agency;

–          Temporary;

–          Seasonal workers;

–          Any other characteristics the MAC considers relevant.

The MAC should consider the evolution of EU and EEA migration since 2000 and possible future trends (absent new immigration controls).

What are the methods of recruitment used by UK employers to employ EU and EEA migrants and how does this impact on UK workers?

What are the economic and social costs and benefits, including physical impacts to the UK economy and impacts on public services and infrastructure of EU and EEA migration?

Is it possible to estimate the potential impact of any future reductions in EU and EEA migration (whether occurring naturally or through policy), at a range of levels and how may these be felt differently across the economy and society?  This may include a consideration of the impacts on the different parts of the UK, within the context of designing a UK wide immigration system.  How could business adjust if EU and EEA net migration was substantially reduced?  What mitigating actions could be taken by employers and government and over what timescale?”

Aligning the UK System with a Modern Industrial Strategy

“What is the current impact of immigration, both EU, EEA and non-EEA, on the competitiveness of UK industry, including on productivity, innovation and labour market flexibility?

What impact does immigration have on skills and training?

Is there any evidence that the free availability of unskilled labour has contributed to the UK’s relatively low rate of investment in some sectors?

Are there advantages to focusing migrant labour on highly skilled jobs or across the entire skills spectrum?

Does the shortage occupation list need to be amended to include skills shortages at lower skills levels that NQF6?

Where relevant to the above, we would welcome detail of what lessons can be drawn from the approach taken by other countries.”

Timescale

The MAC has been asked to produce a report by September 2018, although interim reports may be published over the period. This provides very little time for a controversial Immigration Bill to pass into law before March 2019.

Call for Evidence

The MAC is likely to publish a call for evidence from stakeholders and interested parties in the coming weeks.  The report will be the most complex, comprehensive and far reaching project that the MAC will have undertaken since its inception.

Magrath LLP will be working with businesses, stakeholders and representative bodies to contribute to the MAC research. As soon as the Call for Evidence has been published we will be in touch with stakeholders and interested parties again.