An immigration taskforce in the UK is set to draw up a set of proposals that would reduce the number of people moving to the country to less than 100,000, with individuals likely to be required to find work before being able to get a visa.
It would mean that citizens from European Union countries who currently have the ability to move to the UK without a visa must prove they have a job before entering the country.
The taskforce will be headed by Prime Minister Theresa May along with 13 of the most senior members of her Government, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
The group will also look at other measures. Its terms of reference state that the goal will be delivered by ‘implementing domestic measures to control migration, ensuring an efficient and targeted visa system and making it harder for illegal immigrants to stay in the country’.
This has many people and organisations concerned about tougher immigration rules for EU citizens. For example, the Restaurant Association has warned that such a move will make employing staff from abroad more difficult. Many of its members rely on overseas workers.
Meantime, Britain’s engineering leaders have warned that a clampdown on freedom of movement due to leaving the EU will have a major impact on innovation, universities and staff transfers. In a new report, the Royal Academy of Engineering highlights the challenge that Brexit could present to the supply of skilled engineers from the EU who, it says, are essential to maintaining the world class quality and success of UK engineering companies and universities.
It points out that in universities, engineering has proportionally more staff originating from the EU (at 15 per cent) than across all subjects as a whole. At Imperial College London, for example, which is regarded as one of the world’s top 10 universities and a global leader in engineering, a third of staff are EU nationals.
The Royal Academy also says that uncertainty about the status of EU workers are likely to result in delays to major infrastructure projects such as HS2, Thames Tideway and Hinkley Point C. These will all face recruitment difficulties and increasing costs if demand for labour outstrips supply.
The report calls on the government and the engineering community to work together to take decisive action on the engineering skills crisis. It also calls for the development of a Shortage Occupation List for engineering positions that cannot be filled domestically in the short term. This would grant temporary visas to skilled engineers from EU countries with the specialist skills that the UK lacks.
The report, compiled from the views of 38 engineering organisations and 400 companies, also calls on the UK government to extend procedures for intra-company transfers to cover EU citizens, as many companies require their engineers to move freely to support and fulfill contracts.