Last week’s poll: managing immigration after Brexit

Should migrants from the European Union have priority to enter the UK after we leave the union?


In a policy announcement at last week’s Conservative party conference, the government declared that EU citizens will no longer be given priority to live and work in the UK after Brexit. As a consequence, UK citizens may have to apply for visas to work and travel in Europe.

A recent report from the government’s own Migration Advisory Committee, concluded that EU immigrants contribute more to the economy and use less public services than migrants from outside the EU. It also found no evidence that immigration had significant impact on overall employment and unemployment of the UK-born workforce, although on the latter point it conceded that impact may vary between lower-skilled and higher-skilled workforces.

Despite the statistics, respondents to our poll overwhelmingly backed a merit-based system where the same criteria are applied to all potential immigrants, regardless of nationality. A significant majority of 65 per cent favoured this option in last week’s poll, ostensibly showing support for the government’s declared position. A quarter of respondents signalled that priority for EU citizens should be maintained on the basis that it smooths relations with our closest trading partners, while just two per cent felt EU citizens should be prioritised to maximise tax revenues.

Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter, opinions below the line were impassioned.

“It looks like we will need another ‘Windrush’ input from the Commonwealth countries – if they want to come – to do the jobs that the UK workers won’t do,” declared a reader with the username Sandy. “Who will pull parsnips, wash cars, change sheets etc. when the Eastern Europeans can’t come?”

Elsewhere, Another Steve commented: “Immigration should be directly tied to the country’s skill needs. Applicants should be assessed based on a fair and open competition that looks at the skills, a definite job offer, financial viability and health of all applicants. Short term, low skilled, seasonal workers should be managed outside of this system using temporary visas.”

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