In his blog, BBC Business Editor Robert Preston adds his voice to the growing business and political lobby over concerns that the government’s interim immigration cap is harming the UK economy.
Mr Preston said:
“As luck would have it, bumped into the boss of one of our largest manufacturing exporters last night, who complained that his ability to expand in the UK was being seriously hampered by the new restrictions on his ability to hire from outside the European Union, that have been imposed by the coalition government.”
“My manufacturer says that the pool of highly skilled people just isn’t wide enough or deep enough in the UK. And in recent weeks I have heard identical comments from bankers, software designers, drug makers and so on.
“So if they want to invest and grow in the UK, they argue that they must have the ability to import the best talent from the rest of the world.”
Mr Preston points out that if Britain wants to compete in an increasingly competitive world they must attract the best talent:
“The problem is that the required nurturing of so-called human capital takes years.
And British-based businesses want to expand now.
“Here’s the serious concern: if there are skill constraints on their ability to grow in the UK, they’ll take their investment to other countries where the appropriate skills can be obtained.
“That would be a concern at a time when public spending cuts are having a seriously dampening impact on an already weak economy – and when the government is relying on private-sector growth to take up the slack.”
“What many businesses have said to me is that it is all very well for the government to turn to them to re-stimulate the economy, and they would like to rise to the challenge, but restricting their ability to buy from across the world is a binding, painful fetter.”
This week a cabinet minister, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable, unusually spoke out against official government policy.
In a statement to the FT, the Liberal Democrat MP said that the immigration rules and immigration cap are causing “a lot of damage to business industry’.
Last week Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson broke from his own party ranks over immigration, warning that plans to limit the number of migrants to Britain will damage the economy.
Care sector depends on migrant workers
The financial and industrial sectors are not alone in depending on non-EU migrant workers to fill skills gaps.
The care industry and NHS would not be able to operate without foreign workers and students filling the vacancies in medical staff, nursing, care, cleaning and catering.
The number of migrant workers and students coming into the UK has already been reduced this year by tweaking the point based system or changing immigration Rules, as well as slashing the shortage occupations list for skilled workers coming in under Tier 2.
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