Business growth

Labor would ease immigration rules to help businesses grow, says Keir Starmer

Labor will ease immigration rules to spur growth in a fresh push to support businesses, Sir Keir Starmer is expected to say, after Rishi Sunak pushed back against a call from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for a better access to foreign workers.

In a speech to business leaders on Tuesday, the Labor leader will put his party at odds with the government on the key battleground issue, saying his government would be ‘pragmatic’ on migrant workers as part of a “national growth strategy”.

But he will tell the CBI that any easing of restrictions must be accompanied by commitments from employers on better training, pay and conditions for local staff – to end the ‘cheap labor’ growth model. and wean Britain off its “immigration addiction”.

The head of Britain’s biggest airport group said on Monday there was “no doubt” that Brexit had hurt the economy and had “massively exacerbated” labor shortages.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said the aviation industry’s ability to recruit labor “at scale and pace” had been compromised. “Before Brexit, this problem never existed.”

It comes after Mr Sunak dismissed reports that the government was considering a Swiss-style deal with the EU to remove barriers to trade, which would mean a return to greater freedom of movement for workers.

After Tory Brexiteers erupted at the proposal – and Nigel Farage branded it a betrayal that would see the Tories ‘destroyed’ at the next election – the Prime Minister insisted he was ‘unequivocal’ that under his leadership, the government would not pursue “any relationship with Europe”. which is based on alignment with EU legislation”.

But business leaders said Mr Sunak should ‘open his mind’ and recognize that the deep economic downturn predicted last week by the Office for Budget Responsibility makes a closer relationship with the EU vital for Britain. Brittany.

The vice-chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership – former Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier – said The Independent“What is so difficult for business people to understand is that ideology gets in the way of economic pragmatism.

“We need to be able to have a conversation about the roster. A better model is fuller access to the single market, whether through EEA (European Economic Area) membership or a bespoke arrangement. It’s time to open your mind and really listen to business.

British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said a Swiss-style arrangement would be a “reasonable” way to remove border controls.

“Sooner or later we have to confront these ideas and consider them,” he said. “We see no benefit from Brexit and we need new answers.”

On Monday, CBI chief Tony Danker called for more fixed-term visas to help “fill the gap” of around 1million job vacancies in the UK economy. He warned that companies considering investing in the UK need more details “as soon as possible” on how the Prime Minister intends to boost growth.

Speaking to the CBI, Mr Sunak said he wanted to create “one of the most attractive visa regimes in the world for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people”.

But he gave no pitch on the points-based system controlling the migration of low-skilled workers, saying his “number one priority” was tackling illegal migration.

By contrast, Sir Keir is set to tell the CBI that a Labor government would be “pragmatic” about recruiting foreign labour.

But he will add: ‘Any movement through our points-based migration system, whether through the skilled occupations pathway or the shortage workers list, will come with new conditions for businesses.

“We expect you to present a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better wages and conditions, for investments in new technologies.”

Aides said Labor would not revert to free movement and would retain the system whereby points are awarded to immigration applicants based on demand for the skills they offer.

Former Tory Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine said Mr Sunak’s comments appeared to indicate he was open to revisiting elements of Johnson’s Brexit deal.

“He says he has red lines, but that’s not outright denial,” the pro-EU Tory peer said. The Independent. “Any responsible Prime Minister concerned with rebuilding our economy needs to realize that this involves a closer and better relationship with the biggest market on our doorstep.”

European Movement vice-chairman, former Tory minister Stephen Dorrell, also said: “Mr Sunak is clearly nervous about his right wing, but most people would consider him to be obviously common sense. to seek to remove the barriers between us and our largest market.”

The comments came as fresh evidence of the economic damage caused by EU withdrawal emerged, as the Icelandic owners of a seafood factory in Grimsby blamed Brexit, as well as the Covid pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, their decision to withdraw from the UK.

A prominent wine importer who moved from Wales to France due to additional costs imposed by Brexit bureaucracy, said Mr Sunak seemed “in denial” about the impact on small businesses.

“We have a government that is just not interested in business,” said Daniel Lambert. “It’s killing small businesses left, right and center and the government still wants to pretend there’s nothing wrong.”

Tina McKenzie from the Federation of Small Businesses said that since Brexit “thousands of small businesses have stopped trading with the EU, either temporarily or permanently”.

And she said small businesses were being ‘barred’ from recruiting skilled workers overseas by exorbitant visa fees, calling on the government to introduce a cap of £1,000 per worker to create a level playing field.

“We would like the government to do everything possible to provide a welcoming business environment for small businesses importing or exporting goods and services,” she said. The Independent.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Brexit has caused an economic and social disaster – a 4% drop in productivity, a 15% drop in trade, a 6% rise in food prices, wages more low, labor shortages, highest inflation in the G7.

The government’s reaction to the discussion of a possible Swiss-style deal showed it was “too committed to a self-defeating ideology to even mention that elephant in the room”, she said. .

“The Greens wouldn’t just pass a Swiss-style deal,” Ms Lucas said. “We will go further – our party conference agreed last month that we would seek to join the EU as soon as the political situation is favorable and the right conditions are available.”

Labor MP Hilary Benn, co-chair of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said: “Businesses would welcome any initiative from the government to remove the red tape and trade barriers that have been hurting them and holding back growth since the beginning. entry into force of Brexit.

“A new agreement with the EU which includes a veterinary agreement and alignment to standards – as the current Swiss agreement does – would also go a long way to removing the remaining sticking points on the Northern Ireland protocol.”