Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed today that workers from EU countries deemed to be ‘low skilled’ will lose their automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit.
He said plans to control immigration after Britain leaves the EU will be published today and said they will not include a set target for cutting numbers of immigrants.
Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it would be reduced to ‘sustainable levels’ instead of the tens of thousands set out in the Conservative manifesto.
He dismissed the fears of UK business leaders that the new policy would damage the economy and said it would be based on skills, not where people came from.
The controversial plan to insist that skilled migrants applying for five-year visas must earn £30,000 a year or more will now go out for consultation.
Other plans in the Government White Paper will include:
- Ending a cap on the number of skilled workers from the EU and across the world.
- Making one-year visas available for workers classed as low-skilled.
The new policy would be phased in from 2021 and Mr Javid said it complied with ‘the clear instruction (from voters) to get control over our borders.’
He added: “It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from.”
Javid added that it would ‘maximise the benefits of immigration and demonstrate the UK is open for business.’
One of the main sticking points for employers is the plan for a £30,000 minimum earnings rule for skilled EU immigrants, which would exclude workers such as nurses.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee had recommended that the current 20,700 immigration cap should be scrapped for high-skilled workers on ‘Tier 2’ visas.
These are general work visas for people offered a skilled job in the UK who are from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, including nurses and doctors.
But setting a £30,000 minimum salary for skilled migrants could damage the NHS’s ability to recruit the staff it needs, says the body representing NHS trusts.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the programme that with nurse salaries starting at £23,00 ‘high skills do not equal high pay.’
She added: “Also paramedics and midwives. Junior doctors starting salaries at £27,000, healthcare assistants at £17,000, all coming in way below the £30,000 cap.
“It is not just health workers, it is social care as well. We have to remember where the skills lay. They lay in those staff under £30,000.”
Mr Javid said: “We are not setting the exact threshold today. We will consult further on whether it is £30,000 or thereabouts.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The government is not, as it wrongly claims, using skills-based criteria to meet the needs of our economy and our society.
“It is using an income-based system which allows derivatives traders free movement but which excludes nurses, social care workers and other professions.”
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the plans ‘send a terrible message that the UK is becoming less open and welcoming and more insular.’