However you voted on 23rd June 2016, the date of the UK’s departure from the EU is drawing ever nearer. And, as it does, the need for the nation to agree on a new plan for immigration becomes ever more urgent. For the last 45 years, since the UK joined what was then known as the EEC, the nation’s immigration policy has been part of a co-ordinated set of European ideals, based on the principle of Freedom of Movement. Of all the individuals and organisations which have views about what the future of UK immigration policy should be, business groups are one of the most important as rules about who has the right to live and work in this country are changed.
Now, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a group representing the views of it’s 190,000 member businesses (which have roughly 7,000,000 employees – about one third of the private sector workforce), has published a proposal which, it says, would achieve the Brexiteers’ aim of ‘bringing back control’ while still meeting the needs of British industries. The CBI report also emphasises the need for “an open and honest debate” which their Deputy Director-General, Josh Hardie, says as been “absent” so far in the Brexit discussions.
The CBI has emphasised the fact that, according to the majority of reputable research, the economic benefits of controlled inward migration to the UK outweigh the downsides, and calls for a new UK immigration system which is open and transparent, with the aim of restoring public confidence. The end to freedom of movement is, according to the report, an opportunity for the UK to design an immigration system which better allows employers to access talented people and skills from around the world, while continuing with an “open and controlled immigration system for EU workers”.
Perhaps controversially for many advocates of Brexit, the CBI report also recommends scrapping migration targets, replacing them with a person-focussed system which emphasises the contribution individuals can make to society while also investing more in public services in communities where demand has been increased by migration.
Whatever the future holds for UK immigration policy, it’s important to say that the rules will not change at least until March 2019. But with just 226 days to go until Brexit, the pressure for a decision rises.