IEA calls on UK to scrap immigration targets

A new report carried out by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has revealed that the UK should scrap current net migration target levels and introduce a new two-lane immigration system post-Brexit.

The IEA’s report found that the UK’s approach to immigration policy is economically damaging, too restrictive when it comes to high-skilled workers and does not reflect the British public’s attitudes towards immigration.

Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s Head of Political Economy and the report’s author, said that contrary to the way the immigration debate is often framed, concerns about immigration are cultural, not economic. Therefore, setting intake targets and capping certain types of immigration is counterproductive.

Niemietz calls for the arbitrary net migration target to be scrapped, as well as caps on visas for highly-skilled workers and restrictions on foreign students working to be lifted. He then goes on to outline a two-lane system that the UK could adopt post-Brexit. Under this system, free movement with some countries would be maintained, while a simplified, uncapped version of the current system is introduced for the rest of the world.

The so-called ‘fast-lane’ would be based on the current system of free movement with the EEA, but wouldn’t necessarily apply to the whole of the EEA, and could be extended to non-EEA countries.

The ‘standard-lane’ would operate in a similar way to how the non-EU skilled migration stream (Tier 2) currently works, albeit without a cap.

Key recommendations made by the IEA’s report include:

Scrapping the arbitrary migration target

The IEA states that this wrongly focuses attention on overall numbers, while the British public are concerned about types of immigration, not volumes.

Abolishing the cap on work visas (Tier 2) for highly skilled people

The IEA argues that skilled migration is popular with the public and Tier 2 migrants are, almost by definition, highly productive economic and fiscal net contributors. Limiting their numbers is needless economic and political self-harm, the institute says.

Dropping ‘working limits’ on foreign student visas

According to the IEA, international students are another highly popular group of immigrants, but their working hours are restricted by the current system. This discriminates against part-time students and students from less wealthy backgrounds.

Article published 15th January 2019