The immigration minister has tried to reassure business and industry that there will be “no cliff-edge” change in migration policy post-Br exit.
But Robert Goodwill has hinted that the new system for controlling migration from the European Union could involve different rules for different sectors of the British economy as well as allowing flows to fill skill shortages in UK industries.
He confirmed that business and industry will be consulted this summer as part of the preparations for the new immigration policy to bring EU migration under control.
The immigration minister said British industries currently dependent on labour from other European states will be given time to adjust to the new policy. But he stressed that increasing the skills and expertise of British staff to fill shortage areas was also an important part of the government’s long-term target of reducing net migration to below 100,000.
“What we don’t want is some sort of cliff edge,” said the immigration minister. “This is a target we intend to deliver on, but we do understand that given a number of other factors in play – particularly the time it takes, for example, to bring doctors through, for training nurses – there’s a whole number of skills that we need to deliver to our people.
“But some of those skills are not delivered in a very short time so we do understand that. Our aim is to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.”
Asked what options the UK may have for controlling immigration of EU citizens, for example a visa system or an Australian-style points system, Goodwill told peers on Tuesday: “That would be speculation about what the settlement and the arrangement might be.
“It may be different for different sectors; it may reflect shortages in our economy. But that is, sort of, speculation, which I think would be unwise to enter into ahead of the negotiations.”
He added: “It’s not wise to speculate, not least because we’ve not seen what the opening gambit of the European commission, the other member states, might be in those particular negotiations.”
However he did insist that Britain will have a “bespoke immigration system” post-Br exit and rejected the idea that it might be modelled on the Australian points-based system or a Swiss system. “There is no off-the-peg system that will work for us,” he said. “Whatever is agreed will be a unique arrangement between the EU and the UK.”