This report covers the final report with important immigration recommendations from the U.K.’s Migration Advisory Committee.
Today the U.K.’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its final report concluding that the overall impact of European Economic Area (EEA) migration on the U.K. labour market has been relatively small, compared to other changes.1 If considering immigration in isolation, and not as part of Brexit negotiations2, the MAC recommends a more relaxed approach to higher-skilled migration, coupled with a more restrictive approach to lower-skilled migration after free movement between the U.K. and the European Union (EU) ends. It also proposes that EEA and non-EEA nationals should be treated equally, with no preference given towards EEA workers, unless this is being considered as part of a trade deal with the EU.
While the government is not obligated to implement the MAC’s recommendations, it is anticipated the government will review its findings prior to finalising details on its plans for a future U.K. immigration system.
This could be unwelcome news for businesses that employ large numbers of lower-skilled workers and rely heavily on EEA migration. For employers of more highly-skilled workers, whilst there will be increased administrative burden for EEA workers applying for visas to work in the U.K., the recommendations seek to relax existing rules to pre-2011 levels, by lowering the skills threshold and abolishing the Tier 2 cap and Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) for all migrants.
While it is unclear whether MAC’s recommendations, if any, will be taken into account by government, a White Paper detailing its proposals is expected to follow soon.
In July 2017, the U.K. government commissioned the MAC to assess the impact of EEA migration on the U.K. labour market. Below are the proposals in brief from the report released today.
The MAC report conclusions may be of surprise to many businesses that have lobbied hard during the consultation process to retain preferential access to EEA migration. There is no lower-skilled migration route open to non-EEA nationals, therefore if the government decides to implement proposals to treat EEA and non-EEA nationals equally, businesses could see an end to access to lower-skilled labour. This could place a bigger focus for employers on retention of their EEA workers as free movement draws to a close in December 2020.
Alternatively, the government may still strike a deal with the EU or seek to build an entirely new immigration system altogether, taking into account the overwhelming reliance on EEA migration in many sectors across the United Kingdom. For employers of medium- to higher-skilled migrants, whilst the new requirement for EEA migrants to apply for work visas will introduce additional administration, the proposals to relax the Tier 2 route and improve access to international talent should be welcomed by many businesses.
While the MAC’s findings have influenced government policy in the past, not all recommendations have been accepted and this must be viewed in the context of wider Brexit negotiations and policy-making.3 The government is expected to release its White Paper soon detailing plans for the new immigration system. In the meantime, businesses remain without clarity and could be unable to plan ahead. Employers should continue to engage with their EEA workers on this topic and consider if / what level of support might be provided to foster re-assurance around the upcoming changes with their current EU workforce as a result of the EU Settlement Scheme.
1 See “EEA Migration in the UK: Final Report” (PDF 2.22MB) (18 September 2018).
According to the website, The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is an independent, non-statutory, non-time limited, non-departmental public body that advises the government on migration issues.
3 See the Policy Paper on the recent position of the U.K. government in respect of Brexit and the options for immigration.
The KPMG Legal Services – Immigration Team has a wealth of experience in transactional, advisory, and compliance assurance services. We will be able to advise your business in relation to practical considerations in light of the above changes, as well as what this means for your long-term recruitment and compliance strategies.
* Please note the KPMG International member firm in the United States does not provide immigration or labour law services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in the United Kingdom.
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