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Government advised not to offer EU migrants special treatment after Brexit

The Government has been advised not to offer EU migrants special treatment after Brexit.

Despite pressure from Brussels to offer preferential access in exchange for a free trade deal, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has surprisingly said EU migrants should get the same access as non-EU arrivals in future.

MAC looked at the impact of migration in the UK - one of the main issues drawn out by the Leave campaign during the referendum. But despite the strength of feeling among many voters, today’s report actually suggests making it easier for highly-skilled workers to come to the UK.

The committee analysed a range of impacts, from pay to public services, and found immigration has virtually no negative effect on the UK-born population.

In particular, the report finds:

  • Migrants have no or little impact on the overall unemployment rate
  • Migration doesn’t have a major effect on wages of UK-born workers
  • Migration has reduced prices
  • EU migrants pay more in taxes than they take in benefits
  • EU migrants contribute much more to the health service and social care than they consume
  • Migration has increased house prices

The MAC therefore recommends that after Brexit, high-skilled workers should be encouraged to come to the UK more easily, while continuing to limit access for lower-skilled workers, who have less of a positive economic impact. It suggests placing EU and non-EU migrants under the same set of rules, while abolishing the cap on Tier 2 (skilled) migrants. It also suggests loosening the definition of Tier 2 migrants to include medium-skilled workers, as well as highly-skilled ones.

Contrary to the demands of many employers, the MAC doesn’t recommend setting up a particular scheme for low-skilled migrants to continue flowing freely into the UK, with the possible exception of a special scheme for seasonal agricultural workers. But the report recommends employers pay a higher minimum wage for agricultural workers in exchange for privileged access.

Overall, this report helps make Theresa May’s argument for her. Preferential treatment of EU migrants is something Brussels will certainly demand in exchange for a free trade deal, but which she is reluctant to give. The fact that this report offers little reason to offer that concession squeezes the PM further into a corner, which public opinion had already boxed her into.

There is no room left for any budging.