Even in the 60 per cent Remain capital, Brexit splits opinion. But few dispute that, for better or worse, London is heavily reliant on labour from overseas or that sterner migration rules will have some kind of impact. The numbers speak pretty clearly for themselves.
Around two million of London’s 5.2 million-workforce were born outside the UK, and over 680,000 of these were born in other EU countries, according to official statistics compiled 18 months ago. In June, it was calculated that a quarter of the city’s construction workers come from elsewhere in the European Union. New Ipsos MORI polling for London Councils has found that Londoners are very conscious of the large numbers working in the NHS and social care services and worried that they might not stick around.
So if the UK is to “take back control” of immigration policy after withdrawing from the European Union, what sort of immigration policy should it have and how might it affect London?
London First, the organisation that represents many of the capital’s biggest employers and universities, has worked with professional services giant PwC to produce some proposals. In a report called Global Britain, they outline what they call a “fair and managed immigration system” for the post-Brexit economy. Its an argument for national policy, of course – early, post-referendum discussion about a special London work visa did not last for very long – but in a UK that could become even more reliant on London’s economic power, such a policy would need to help London as much as possible.
Their recommendations include economic and business need defining policy, rather than crude (my word) numerical migration targets. They want the Tier 2 visa quota for skilled workers abolished and the “skills threshold” changed so that people qualified for “medium-skilled” jobs are eligible for entry to the UK too. Measures to prevent downward pressure on wages are set out. A flexible “forward-looking system” is called for so that labour shortages in “growth areas and sectors”, notably the health and care sectors, can be speedily addressed.
Read the London First-PwC recommendations in full here.