One of the trickier questions facing the British government is whether the cap on Tier 2 General Visas should be scrapped. A recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee insisted that the UK needs to prioritise high skilled immigration post Brexit and should discourage free migration of low skilled migrants from the European Union. The idea is gaining traction in the UK after years of European migration that has mostly served low paying industries and according to many, has helped to keep wages down. This reasoning was a major factor in the choice of Brits to leave the union after more than four decades of membership.
So does Britain have a problem with low paid migration? It depends what you mean by low paid. The benefit of Tier 2 General Visas is that it ensures that there is a minimum salary involved.(£30,000). It is this financial necessity, coupled with other significant requirements that ensure that Tier 2 General Visa applicants are indeed contributing significantly more to the country's coffers than perhaps low skilled migrants might. This, according to the Migration Advisory Committee makes them a priority for future migration and means that those from the European Union should be made to enter the UK via one of the tiered routes (such as Tier 2) to ensure that only those with the necessary skills are allowed to enter the UK to live and work.
Recent changes to the immigration system in the UK have not been universally welcomed; the Windrush scandal for instance is a stark reminder that Britain has not always been so stringent in dealing with immigration issues. The scandal resulted in the departure of former home secretary Amber Rudd after it came to light that her department was indeed aware of the potential issues that came with recently implemented immigration changes and had chosen to press on regardless. This move left thousands of citizens at risk of removal back to countries that they had left several decades ago.
There was also the issue regarding the so-called “hostile environment” that was implemented by Theresa May in her former role as home secretary before taking over as prime minister in the wake of Britain's landmark decision to end it's four decade membership of the European Union. The policy set about making life more difficult for illegal immigrants in the UK by compelling financial institutions, government institutions and the NHS to find out about someone's immigration status before dealing with them. The moves also included a national advertising campaign and a much maligned local advertising campaign using advertising vans with advertising urging illegal immigrants to “go home”.
Now Britain faces yet another immigration change as Brexit threatens to make a huge change in not only the UK's global standing, but also attractiveness to immigrants who may now see other countries as more appealing options to move to. While clearly not everyone will be upset by a huge reduction in immigration, the economy relies on an influx of foreign workers to help stave off potential staffing issues. This plentiful supply of staff also helps to depress wage growth meaning a win-win situation for businesses that use EU migrants to help bolster their staff levels.
The irony for Britain is that its immigration future will largely depend on their future relationship with the European Union. Any type of deal that maintains strong trading ties with the union will likely entail some form of free movement for EU citizens. Failure to accept this will likely be a red line for EU negotiators and cause a “no-deal” situation. This is the worst possible outcome for many and will almost certainly lead to a situation where EU citizens no longer have privileges when it comes to moving to the UK to live and work.
The current cap of 20,700 Tier 2 General Visas annually will almost certainly need to change if Britain's economy is going to continue to grow at its current rate. What these changes look like are unknown, but the Tier 2 General Visa cap looks like the most straightforward option to allow a more flexible approach going forward to allow British businesses access to the staff that they need. The move to remove certain occupations from the cap has almost certainly helped to improve the prospects of Tier 2 General Visa applicants, but this is going to be nowhere near enough to offset the potential drop in EU migration that seems almost inevitable after Brexit.
There is the potential to allow for low skilled workers in specific sectors to have an exemption to the current rules. Sectors such as agriculture have specific seasonal issues that are the difference between survival and going out of business. This is a particularly tough issue for Michael Gove. In his previous guise as a “Brexiteer” Gove pushed for the UK to leave the union, but now, as the minister in charge of agriculture, he has to offset his own ambitions against the reality that farmers need low skilled labour to survive.
This is just one of the paradoxes that the British government needs to sort in the transitional period between when we are due to leave and when we actually do. There is also the issue of the Conservative party civil war that continues to upset negotiations. Whatever happens, we are certainly in for a wild ride in the coming years and immigration is going to be a major factor as to whether Britain succeeds or fails outside of the European Union.
If you are worried about immigration after Brexit then please get in touch. Our immigration solicitors can help with your situation by giving you up to the minute advice that can help to settle your query. So for any immigration query, please get in touch and we'll be happy to help.