• Immigration

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    06 March 2020

    Although we exited the European Union on 31st January, freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will continue for another 11 months, when a new points-based immigration system (similar to the system used in Australia) will be introduced. Its aim will be to reduce the levels of lower-skilled labour emigrating to the UK and to attract more higher-skilled workers. Limiting access to lower-skilled labour should help reduce our already low levels of unemployment even further and will also provide a spur to businesses to invest in productivity improvements.

    So how will the approach work in practice? Generally, applicants will need to meet three criteria – to be able to speak a certain level of English, having a job offer and for that job to be at an appropriate skill level. These elements are worth 50 points towards the 70 points that will be needed to emigrate to the UK with the remaining points being met through other criteria including for example the job being within a shortage occupation. But there will be exceptions, such as the Global Talent route which currently brings some of the most highly skilled workers from within the EU to the UK. This will be extended globally and will provide an entry route for applicants who don’t have a job offer but have the required level of points as well as an endorsement by a relevant and competent body. Think high powered scientists.

    How will the new system affect EU citizens already here? The European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) that the Government introduced in 2019 is operating well, with more than 3.2million applications received as of the end of January. EU citizens already settled and working here in the UK are hugely valued members of our society and through the EUSS they will have unrestricted rights to work. This is important for their livelihoods and our economy as a whole.

    Given its great importance to our constituency here in rural Devon, how will agriculture be affected? Since the EU referendum I have spoken in the House of Commons and lobbied ministers on many occasions on the need to support our farmers, both in terms of future funding and access to seasonal labour. £3 billion has now been set aside to support our farmers over the next two years after the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy funding ends, and the Agriculture Bill will put a framework in place to determine how the industry will be funded in the longer term. Access to seasonal labour will continue through the agreements that the UK has with several countries and through a dedicated scheme for the agriculture sector (an existing pilot scheme has been quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 places). Both routes will provide the flexibility to recruit the seasonable labour that many agriculture-related businesses rely upon.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit