14 August 2018 | Comment | Article by Eleanor Bamber

White Paper largely silent on EU skilled worker issue

The Government’s White Paper on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union barely touches on the issue of what the future immigration arrangements for EU skilled workers will look like.

The White Paper promises that “the UK will continue to be an open and tolerant nation, and will want to continue to attract the brightest and best, from the EU and elsewhere” and that "the UK’s future immigration arrangements will set out how those from the EU and elsewhere can apply to come and work in the UK" but does not go into any specific detail.

The best that most commentators can deduce is that there is likely to be some sort of points based system put in place – not dissimilar to the one currently in place for non-EU migrants who wish to come and work in the UK.

What we don’t currently know is whether employers will need to be "sponsors" of skilled EU migrants in the same way that they must currently sponsor non-EU skilled migrants. Becoming (and remaining) a sponsor is complex and time consuming for a business plus there are substantial fees involved at various stages of the visa process.

The CBI is of course keeping a close eye on developments in the area of immigration and has urged Theresa May to drop the “blunt” immigration target of 100,000 migrants a year on the basis that this is not viable. The CBI also considers that the rules on visas for non-EU workers are too expensive and too restrictive and that this system should not simply be extended to EU workers. Instead, the CBI argues, an entirely new system for EU workers should be developed in order to ensure that the UK does not suffer from losing out on the much needed talent that EU workers bring to the economy.

It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the government will look to simplify the immigration process for EU workers but if its commitment to “supporting its public services, as well as enhancing the UK’s attractiveness for research, development and innovation” is to be met, it will need a process that helps not hinders businesses looking to engage overseas employees.

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