UK: We must wean economy off immigration, Labour leader to warn businesses

Meanwhile, in Canada, the government takes the opposite tack with respect to ongoing increases in immigration levels, making it easier for businesses to employ Temporary Foreign Workers along with almost eliminating study requirement for international students given removal of work hour caps, the latter two reinforcing a low-pay model:

The days of “cheap labour” must end to wean the UK off its “immigration dependency”, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told business leaders.

Sir Keir called for a plan to train British workers and move the economy away from its “low-pay model”.

But he accepted the need for skilled foreign workers and promise a “pragmatic” approach to immigration.

His speech comes at a time when businesses are calling for more migrant labour to boost economic growth.

The Labour leader’s speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in Birmingham followed that of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday.

Mr Sunak told business leaders having “proper control of our borders” was one of the immediate benefits of Brexit and said curbing illegal migration was the “country’s number one priority right now”.

He spoke after CBI director-general Tony Danker said the UK needed more foreign workers to drive economic growth as the country faces a deep recession.

“People are arguing against immigration – but it’s the only thing that has increased our growth potential since March,” Mr Danker said.

There was considerably less migration during the Covid-19 pandemic than in previous years and the number of EU citizens moving to the UK has dropped since the UK left the European Union.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecasted a decline in net migration, with the number expected to settle at 205,000 a year from 2026 onwards.

In his speech, Sir Keir set out what the UK’s immigration policy would look like under a Labour government, should the party win the next general election.

He promised an immigration system that works better for the needs of business and recognises the need for skilled workers from abroad.

But he stressed that any changes to a points-based migration system “will come with new conditions for business”.

“We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology,” he said.

“But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here.”

Sir Keir outlined Labour’s plans for reform including:

  • Ensuring all employers able to sponsor visas are meeting decent standards of pay and conditions
  • Speed up visa delays to avoid labour shortages damaging the economy
  • Introduce training and plans for improving pay and conditions for roles that require international recruitment
  • Reforming the Migration Advisory Committee to project future trends more accurately

Sir Keir spoke about immigration in an interview with the BBC last week, saying the UK was recruiting too many people from overseas into the NHS.

Source: We must wean economy off immigration, Labour leader to warn businesses