The MAC publishes its final report on EEA Migration

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its final report (the Report) on EEA Migration in the UK.

Originally commissioned by the Home Secretary in 2017, the stated intention of the Report is to ‘provide an evidence base for the design of a new migration system’ after the end of the Brexit transition period which (it is proposed) will end in 2021.

The majority of the MAC’s recommendations have been formulated by reference to what would be a desirable future migration system for the UK if this issue were considered in isolation (without consideration of the UK’s wider negotiations with the EU).

In essence, the Report advocates a move to a new immigration system in which all migration is managed consistently with no preferential access to EU Citizens (the Report notes that ending free movement would not make the UK unusual and cites Canada as another country which combines a relatively open policy to migration without any free movement agreement). It recommends deploying a less restrictive regime for higher skilled workers than for lower skilled workers (the logic being that higher skilled workers tend to have higher earnings and make a more positive contribution to the public finances). The Report concludes that the existing Tier 2 General scheme could provide a useful template but would benefit from a significant overhaul including:

  1. The removal of the Tier 2 General monthly cap;
  2. The inclusion of certain medium skilled jobs (those classified as being at RQF level 3 and above) in the Tier 2 General scheme; and
  3. The abolishment of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).

Interestingly, the Report also urges the Government seriously to consider whether the ‘bureaucratic requirements’ of the current sponsorship and sponsor licencing processes can be reduced. Meanwhile, it advocates retaining the minimum salary threshold and concludes that this is likely to ensure that migrants help to raise the level of productivity in the UK and contribute to rising wages.

Finally, the Report concludes that no special treatment should be given to public sector roles, there should not be a regional variation in salary thresholds and that there is no need (save for a possible exception in the form of a seasonal agricultural worker scheme) for a work-related scheme for lower skilled workers.

The recommendations have been criticised by certain parties and sectors who alarmed by potential limitations on their ability to recruit low skilled migrants from the EEA (this is already the position in respect of non-EEA migrants who may only be sponsored directly if they are coming to the UK to undertake skilled roles).

The MAC’s recommendations will not necessarily be followed (even if welcomed by the current Government certain points may need to be conceded as part of its wider Brexit negotiations) but the publication of the Report should be welcomed, if for no other reason than its contents will now assist the Government with finalising its future immigration policy (certainty in respect of which is long overdue).

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