A the ONS publishes new net migration figures, we should move on from debating the failings of the old, broken target, says Sunder Katwala, and focus on a plan for what our immigration system looks like after Brexit, when we should expect free movement to have come to an end.
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Government and employers will need to adapt to new trends in migration revealed by new ONS migration statistics published today, with declining EU net migration and rising applications from outside the EU, a leading immigration thinktank said today.
In the short term, that should mean visa applications from the NHS for high-skilled non-EU migrants being excluded from the Government’s monthly quota.
For three months in a row, the UK has turned down visa applications from employers, including the NHS, seeking to fill high-skilled vacancies with non-EU applicants as EU migration has tapered off.
British Future is one of many voices arguing that the Government should now exempt NHS visa applications, above the Tier Two threshold, from the Tier Two monthly quota.
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:
“The shift we’ve seen over the last few months, with net migration from the EU tailing off and rising non-EU applications, may well be a sustained pattern which continues through until Brexit.
“Employers and Government will need to adapt and strike new balances. Ultimately that will mean better training of people in the UK and an immigration system that welcomes people with the skills we need. But that isn’t going to happen overnight.
“In the short term, the Home Office needs to show some flexibility. We shouldn’t be turning away people from outside the EU that the NHS needs and the public wants. With our health service short on high-skilled staff, it makes sense to take NHS staff out of the monthly high-skilled quota.”
Such a move would help ease staffing pressures on the NHS and would remain popular with voters. ICM polling for British Future finds that:
- 84% of the public would be happy for the number of high-skilled non-EU migrants to either increase (36%) or remain the same (48%).
- Asked specifically about doctors and nurses coming to the UK from overseas, 85% would like to see their numbers increase (46%) or remain the same as now (39%).
- Four in five Leave voters (81%) would also be happy for the numbers of migrant doctors and nurses to either increase (39%) or remain the same (42%).
Other organisations and individuals have also backed the proposal. Seamus Nevin, Head of Policy Research at the Institute of Directors, said:
“The fact that Britain has repeatedly maxed-out its Tier 2 visa limit, and that much needed health workers are consequently being blocked by Government from coming here, is a great concern to everyone, including businesses.
“It’s to no-one’s benefit if the skills our health service and businesses need to perform to a high level aren’t available. Our immigration system needs to make it as straightforward and swift as possible for employers of all shapes and sizes to bring in the people they need when the business demand is there.”
As the ONS releases new immigration figures, British Future and the Institute of Directors question why there is no current long-term plan to meet the Government's net migration target. They call for a 'Comprehensive Immigration Review' to examine and publicly debate what policies would be needed meet the target, and what their impacts would be.