The highly anticipated UK’s MAC (Migration Advisory Committee) report recommends scrapping the high-skilled migrants’ cap and removing any preferential access to EU citizens among several other recommendations for the UK’s post-Brexit work immigration system.
A committee formed of independent experts, MAC is a non-departmental public body that advises the Government on migration issues. The UK government had commissioned MAC back in July 2017 to research the impact of EU migration ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU and suggest policies that would benefit the post-Brexit work immigration system.
Publishing its final report titled “EEA migration in the UK” on 18 September 2018, MAC discussed a wide range of issues and impact of EU migration on wages and unemployment, productivity, innovation, training, consumer prices, house prices, public finances, allocation of public resources, public services, crime and subjective well-being.
The report published after accessing the impact of EEA migration on the UK’s economy provides several recommendations for the UK’s post-Brexit work immigration system. The recommendations, however, are based on a premise that immigration policies will not be subject to the Brexit negotiations.
MAC suggests moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens if the UK’s future migration system were to be considered without the influence of Brexit negotiations.
Most recommendations of the MAC’s report are focused on the Tier 2 category of the current points-based immigration system, which substantially forms the work category for migrants coming to the UK. Here’re some of the key recommendations from the report that runs to almost 140 pages.
- Migration policy changes should make it easier for the higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK as they add greater benefit to the UK labour market, productivity and innovation.
- Policies that discourage lower-skilled immigration further suggesting that there’s no need for sector-based schemes (with the potential exception of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme).
- Changes in the current Tier 2 (General) work permit system to cover both EEA and non-EEA nationals in the post-Brexit work immigration with suggestions including;
- Remove the current Tier 2 cap of 20,700 to allow all migrants who meet the necessary skills/criteria for sponsorship.
- Remove current work switching restrictions and make it easier for Tier 2 migrants to change employers.
- Abolish the Resident Labour Market Test currently required to employ non-EEA migrants or lower the salary required for exemption.
- Maintain existing salary thresholds for the Tier 2 (General) category – £30,000 for experienced workers and £20,800 for graduates.
- Review the current shortage occupation list to include medium-skilled roles below NQF level 6 to avoid skill shortages.
- Extend the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme to fill low-skilled roles in industries such as social care, retail, hospitality and construction if a backstop is considered necessary.
Overall, the recommendations from the MAC report focus on attracting and making it easier for higher-skilled immigrants from EEA and beyond to live and work in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
The UK Government has stated that they are carefully considering the proposals made by the committee in the report. Although the Government have implemented most of their recommendations in the past, we will find out in due course how many of the current recommendations will make into the future UK immigration policies.
Besides, if the Brexit negotiations will keep immigration issues untouched and to what extent MAC recommendations are applicable after the negotiations will be interesting to see.