This week, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published their final report on EU migration in the UK. The report is intended to advise ministers on how to proceed after Brexit. We look at the implications of this report on UK employers and those looking to work in the UK.
Reflections on free movement in the UK
There is no evidence that EU migration has reduced employment opportunities or reduced wages for those born in the UK. In fact, MAC suggests that EU migration has increased innovation and productivity in the UK. Migrants also pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and make a larger contribution to the NHS than they receive. Housing is the main area affected negatively by EU migration: MAC suggests that EU migration has raised house prices, and increased competitiveness for social housing.
MAC is recommending that employers now be charged the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) when they sponsor the visa of EU workers. This means an extra £1,000 for hiring EU workers, which puts it on a par with sponsoring a non-EU worker.
However, MAC also proposes a relaxation of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which requires that employers prove that no UK resident could fill their vacancy. They also propose the abolition of the cap on the number of migrants under the Tier 2 visa.
If these changes take effect, small businesses, especially those reliant on EU workers, could feel the strain of increased bureaucracy. However, it is unlikely that larger businesses will be affected by this bureaucracy. Furthermore, they might even find more reason to hire from outside of the UK if the RLMT is relaxed and the migrant cap is abolished.
Workers thinking about coming to work in the UK
MAC recommends that fewer restrictions be imposed on high-skilled immigrants. However, it is unclear what this means in practical terms. MAC’s recommendations for employers will most likely affect their willingness to hire EU workers. This is especially the case for small businesses, who may find the ISC charge a deterrent for hiring EU workers.
On the other hand, MAC’s proposal of no preferential treatment for EU workers levels the playing field for non-EU workers. Employers may start to look upon non-EU candidates more favourably than previously. This may be also be driven by the potential relaxation of the RLMT and the abolition of the Tier 2 migrant cap.
MAC’s report on EU immigration sets out clear suggestions for the government moving forward. While their stance on free movement in the UK to date is positive, it is uncertain whether this positivity will continue in the face of potential controlled immigration in the UK.