Immigration: Post-Brexit plan 'doesn't work for Wales'

UK visaImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The planned immigration changes will come into force after the transition period with the EU ends

Post-Brexit immigration plans "do not work for Wales", Welsh Government ministers, industry representatives and trade unions have said.

They have joined together in calling for the UK government's plans to change.

Under the plans, low-skilled workers will not get visas as the UK government urges employers to move away from relying on "cheap labour" from Europe.

The UK government said the system would work for Wales and the whole UK.

Workers from European Economic Area countries currently have the automatic right to live and work in the UK irrespective of their salary or skill level.

The UK government says this will end on 31 December, when the 11-month post-Brexit transition period is due to finish.

Introduced in mid-February, the government's plans include a "points-based" immigration system, as promised in the Conservative election manifesto.

Under this, overseas citizens would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK.

Image caption,
Migrants would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK

The salary threshold for skilled workers wanting to come to the UK would be lowered from its current £30,000 to £25,600.

However, the UK government says the threshold would be as low as £20,480 for people in "specific shortage occupations" - which currently include nursing, civil engineering, psychology and classical ballet dancing - or those with PhDs relevant to a specific job.

There would no longer be an overall cap on the number of skilled workers who could come into the UK.

A report by the Wales Centre for Public Policy said the £30,000 salary threshold would have hit Wales harder than the rest of the UK, with a £20,000 threshold likely to "mitigate modestly" the potential impact.

Image source, Labour Party
Image caption,
The Welsh Government's Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, said the changes "do not work for Wales"

Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Government's Counsel General, said in a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel the salary threshold should be reduced or scrapped.

The Welsh Government, with support from the Arts Council Wales, Race Council Cymru, Federation of Small Businesses, Universities Wales and others, also calls for:

  • Any new immigration system to be low cost and minimise admin costs
  • A route for unsponsored migration, consistent with a points-based system
  • The new policy to recognise the demographic challenge facing Wales

Mr Miles said: "Together, we are sending a very clear message - we need a migration system that works for Wales, that works for our businesses, our schools and universities, our care homes and hospitals, so we continue to have the skills and people we need.

"What the UK government is currently proposing does not work for Wales.

"The fact that this paper has been agreed by such a broad range of organisations, from across the public, private and voluntary sectors in Wales, speaks volumes about the strength of feeling we are articulating here.

"We hope this powerful message from Wales about our future immigration needs is finally taken on board by the UK government."

The UK government said: "The new immigration system will work for Wales and the whole of the UK. We're encouraging employers to enhance the skills of our existing workforce while stimulating economic growth across the UK."