LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday, setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labor from Europe”.
Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.
The new system, in place from Jan. 1, 2021, will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.
It will mark a sea change for businesses who have grown used to having access to a large pool of EU workers, particularly since 2004 when the accession of several former communist states in central and eastern Europe saw a big influx of migrants coming to Britain to work.
“We have got a number of routes through the points-based immigration scheme that will enable people to come here with the right kind of skills that can support our country and our economy,” interior minister Priti Patel said.
There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce migrant numbers.
“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labor from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the government said in a policy document.
But business groups said that many firms relied on overseas labor and cautioned there might not be enough domestic workers to tend crops,