Business group London First has joined with ten other United Kingdom business and education bodies to call for reforms to the national immigration system in order to tackle what they say are worsening labour and skills shortages across the country.
In a letter sent to both contestants in the Conservatives Party leadership race, the winner of which will become the next Prime Minister, the group asks for a “fair and managed immigration system that keeps it open to all levels of talent that our economy and local services surely need”.
Boris Johnson, a former London Mayor, and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt are told that “without the ability to access international talent, many of our world-class sectors are at significant risk” and that measures to prevent employers “facing a cliff edge in recruitment” is imperative as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
The letter’s signatories, which also include the British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality, the North West Business Leadership Team, the Federation of Master Builders and Universities UK, ask for a lowering of the immigration white paper’s proposed £30,000 a year salary threshold to £20,000; an extension of the period overseas workers can be temporarily employed from one year to two; a revision of the “sponsorship model” that enables small and medium sized firms to bring in overseas talent to make doing so easier; and the reinstatement of the two year post-study visa for international students.
London First chief executive Jasmine Whitbread said that “at a time of economic uncertainty and a tight labour market, the future immigration system must support businesses across the country and go hand in hand with increased investment in skills and training” in order to “ensure that the UK can operate at full strength and attract talent needed to keep business competitive”.
The letter forms part of a national campaign called “full strength”, which argues that “without the ability to access international talent many of our world class sectors are at significant risk”. London First’s involvement reflects its concerns about the impact of Brexit on the capital and also its endeavours to strengthen links and join forces with national and other regional bodies in the face of growing anti-London sentiment.
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