'Low-skilled' migrant workers to be denied visas after Brexit

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

The UK's immigration system has "for too long" focused on "low skilled workers" coming to the country, the Home Secretary said, as the Government announced plans to overhaul the rules after Brexit.

Priti Patel said the new points-based immigration system will focus on the "bright and best" coming to the UK.

The changes are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year, after Brexit, but aim to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.

Changes to the UK’s immigration system will not include a visa option for low-skilled migrant workers after Brexit, the Government has said. Credit: PA

A policy statement outlined the new system after freedom of movement ends and said the economy needs to move away from a reliance on "cheap labour from Europe."

"By ending free movement, and ending this complete focus that we have had as a nation for decades, for too long, on low-skilled workers coming to the UK," Ms Patel told ITV News.

"We can now focus on the bright and the best, the skills that our country, our labour market and our economy rightly needs."

But she added she will not be introducing immigration targets which she said "become arbitrary and irrelevant".

  • How the new points system works:

Ms Patel was questioned by LBC's Nick Ferrari whether her parents would have been admitted to the UK under the new immigration plan.

Her parents came to the UK from Uganda in the 1960s, several years before Ugandan Asians were expelled from the country by dictator Idi Amin.

Mr Ferrari asked the Home Secretary under her new rules: "You wouldn't be here."

She replied: "Yeah, but also let's not forget we are not changing our approach to refugees and asylum seekers, which is very different to a points-based system for employment and that particular route."

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener explains the history of immigration policy:

Corina Grigoruta, careworker at Saint Cecilia's care home, said the new rules are "discriminatory" to immigrants.

"It's a bit tricky, but it's discrimination first of all for the people, they will not have the possibility to try, at least to try," she told ITV News.

Ian Robinson, a partner at the immigration law firm, Fragomen, told ITV News the difference with the new system is the UK can now control European migration because of Brexit.

"They're doing everything they can to control it, while the policy objectives haven't changed, the levers they have to achieve them are so much stronger now," Mr Robinson said.

  • ITV News Business and Economics Editor explains the potential impact on the British economy

However he said the changes to immigration rules should not come as a surprise to employers as they have been a "long time coming", but "few are ready."

"From the beginning of next year, if you need a person to fill a low skill job you have to look locally or you don't get them at all, lots of companies will need to adjust their business model...its going to have a bit of a shock to some parts of the economy," he added.

Mr Robinson said ideally companies need a couple of years to deal with immigration changes, not 10 months.

  • Immigration expert Ian Robinson said the change in immigration rules will be a "shock" to some parts of the economy

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also criticised the plans, accusing the Government of trying to reach "arbitary" numerical targets rather than doing what is best for the country.

She said: "The problem with these new immigration policies is that the Government is so anxious to look as if it is cracking down on immigration that it's not thought through the effects of these policies on the economy as a whole.

"There are important sectors like social care for instance, where the salary threshold they're talking about is very hard to recurit people."

She added: "We know the country wants a fair system and we would try to have a fair system.

"This system is full of holes and won't work."

The Government came under fire for telling employers they will “need to adjust” after deciding it will not offer visas to low-skilled migrant workers.

Industry leaders said the new immigration rules could "spell absolute disaster" for the care system.

  • What impact will the new rules have on British businesses? ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton has been to Blackpool to find out

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned care, construction, hospitality, food and drink companies could be most affected by the changes.

The business organisation hit out at the lack of provision for low-paid workers in the proposals, while lawyers urged the Government “not to turn the tap off overnight” if companies struggle to recruit staff under the new system.

  • What are the new immigration rules?

The new points based system will require people to gain 70 points if they want to live and work in the UK.

Employers have until January 1 2021 to meet the requirements and ensure the staff they employ have a right to work in the UK.

Points are awarded for key requirements, being able to speak English would result in 10 points, having a job offer from an "approved sponsor" is 20 points and those wanting to work in the UK must meet a minimum salary threshold.

EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally with criminal background checks carried out on everyone coming to the UK – affecting applications of anyone who has been given a prison sentence of 12 months or more.

“Top priority” will be given to those with “the highest skills and the greatest talents”, like scientists, engineers and academics – who may not need a job offer to be allowed in.

Other points will be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans “spell absolute disaster for the care sector”.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, raised concerns that the proposals will “not meet the health and care needs of the population”.

The UK Homecare Association said it was “dismayed” by the Government’s decision, adding: “Cutting off the supply of prospective careworkers under a new migration system will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care.

“Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly underfunded care system, is simply irresponsible.”

National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters expressed “serious concerns” about the Government’s “failure to recognise British food and farming’s needs” in the proposals.

Mark Harrison, of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), raised concerns about bakers, meat processors and workers producing food like cheese and pasta not qualifying under the new regime.