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UK: Second MAC report splits opinion

The UK’s Migration Advisory Committee has set out its recommendations for what it believes would be a “desirable” migration system for the UK.

The final MAC report recommends moving to a system where migration is not based on "preferential access". Photo: Flickr/Dave Collier

A digital Skills Permit has been put forward as a solution

The committee, which was commissioned by the home secretary in 2017 to assess the impact of European Economic Area migrants on the country’s economy and society, has recommended moving to a system where migration is not based on “preferential access”.

“The ability to recruit international staff is vital”

“We recommend moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens,” MAC chairperson Alan Manning wrote in the chair’s foreword.

Migrants should be judged on factors including their skills, employment, age and use of public services, and “not fundamentally on their nationality”, the report argues.

It added that it does not see compelling reasons to offer a different set of rules to EEA and non-EEA immigrants.

A policy that provides greater access for higher-skilled migration while restricting access for lower-skilled workers to enter the UK would be consistent with the available evidence, the report stated.

Russell Group chief executive, Tim Bradshaw said that the report busted a series of “pervasive migration myths”, such as that EEA migrants do not increase UK unemployment, drive down wages or impact negatively on the training of the domestic workforce.

Despite this he labelled the report “underwhelming” and its recommendations “unworkable”.

“Scrapping the Tier 2 visa cap and Resident Labour Market Test will not be enough to reduce the burden and bureaucracy of a system that is already at breaking point.”

It was a real opportunity to steer the UK towards a more modern and intelligent immigration system, but the recommendations are unimaginative and unworkable, Bradshaw claimed.

“Under the MAC’s proposals, skilled EEA nationals would be required to wade through excessive red tape to come here, at precisely the time we should be making the UK even more attractive to international talent,” he said.

The Russell Group has proposed a European Skills Permit, based on a system of secure online accounts for future skilled EEA migrants, which builds on the digital platform already in development for the government’s EU Settlement Scheme, Bradshaw said.

Chief executive of Universities UK Alistair Jarvis welcomed the MAC’s recommendations, saying he hoped the government would take the opportunity to “reshape” the immigration system to benefit international educators.

“We welcome the recommendations which extend and increase the flexibility of the Tier 2 visa which would help with the recruitment of a broader range of workers and skills than the current system allows,” Jarvis said.

“The ability to recruit international staff at a broad range of skill levels, and with minimal barriers, is vital to the continued, global success of our universities.”

“There has been a lot of uncertainty for international staff following the Brexit vote and it’s important now that this is addressed as a final Brexit deal is reached. We hope the UK government now develops promptly a reshaped immigration system that encourages talented international university staff to choose the UK,” Jarvis continued.

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