LONDON: After last-ditch Cabinet negotiations, U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid will on Wednesday set out the government’s long-awaited immigration plans for post-Brexit Britain.
The government will hold a 12-month public consultation before deciding whether potential migrants should earn over 30,000 pounds (US$38,000) a year before they qualify to enter as highly-skilled workers after Britain leaves the European Union, Javid said on BBC Radio 4.
Reducing immigration has been a major issue for British voters and was a key factor for many of those who wanted Britain to leave the European Union. Freedom of movement between the 28 countries is a founding principle of the bloc and isn’t negotiable for any member state, its leaders say.
The compromise position, negotiated between May, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark Tuesday, sought to take account of May’s desire to reduce immigration to below 100,000 in line with the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto and the concerns of other Cabinet ministers that the economy will suffer if a migrant talent pool dries up.
Javid repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether the government has ditched its target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, saying only that the government had an “objective” to reduce immigration to “sustainable levels.”
“We want to focus on high skills, and if someone is high skilled, they should be earning more than the median salary,” he said.
Javid also denied the plans would harm the economy, arguing many countries — including the US and Canada — have strong economies without freedom of movement.
“I want an immigration system that’s going to achieve our overall objectives and meet our national interests — and that is our economic objectives, of course — but also meeting some of the anxieties that exist in some communities about high levels of migration,” Javid said.
Ministers are also under pressure to assuage concerns that key jobs such as nursing, which are already understaffed and often lower paid, won’t be hit by the plans. Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes told Sky News that roles in short supply will remain on a priority list for migrants — and could therefore be exempt from the threshold.
However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, an influential figure in the opposition Labour Party, said the plans could do “profound damage” to growth.
“It makes absolutely no sense for the government to come forward with a one-size-fits-all policy for the whole country,” he said, according to a statement. “That simply won’t work for London and flies in the face of what London businesses and we at City Hall have repeatedly told ministers we need.”