Tories’ plan for £30,000 pay threshold for migrants

Theresa May and European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker during a testy exchange last week in Brussels. (Photo: EU Council)

Skilled EU migrants would have to earn at least £30,000 annually before being allowed into the UK under new post-Brexit immigration proposals.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid to regain “control” of the UK’s borders and strike down freedom of movement is now translating, after months of delays, into concrete policy considerations.

The preferred system follows recommendations from the independent migration advisory committee (MAC) and has been condemned by various Tory and Opposition MPs, as well as business leaders and employee representative groups who say business will suffer due to labour shortages.

Reportedly, Theresa May resisted pro-immigration ministers’ arguments for a lower figure than the £30,000 recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and the business secretary, Greg Clark, expressed concern in private about the impact of the threshold, arguing that it be dropped to about £21,000 to prevent acute labour pressures in various sectors.

Mays 1point5bn cheque could bounceMays 1point5bn cheque could bounce
Philip Hammond (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The threshold has also been criticised by NHS leaders who fear it could impede recruitment.

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive, told Today this morning that her organisation, which represents NHS Trusts, was “deeply concerned” by proposals for the £30,000 threshold.

“You have got starting salaries for nurses at £23,000 — also for paramedics, midwives. Junior doctors’ starting salaries at £27,000, healthcare assistants at £17,000, all coming in way below that £30,000 cap,” she said.

A visa route for skilled workers is being put forward with no cap on the number of highly skilled professionals – such as engineers and doctors.

The British Home Secretary also refused to admit today that the Conservative Pary manifesto pledge to drive net migration down to the tens of thousands may be abandoned.

Sajid Javid said “there is no target” in relation to migration numbers in an interview with the Radio 4 Today programme. He repeatedly said that the government is committed to bringing net migration down to “sustainable levels”.

Setting out the key proposals of the immigration white paper, due to be published today, Mr Javid confirmed there would be a salary threshold for medium-skilled workers coming to the UK but said it would be subject to consultation.

“Immigration is good for our country and has made us stronger in countless ways. When we set out the biggest shake-up in the immigration system for 40 years it will still show we’re absolutely an open, welcoming country but we’ll introduce a system which will give us back control,” Mr Javid said.

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The white paper will outline plans for an end to freedom of movement and a work-based system from 2021. Two weeks ago the Office for National Statistics said the number of EU citizens coming to the UK for work had fallen to a six-year low.

The prime minister apologised last month after sparking controversy by telling business leaders that EU migrants would no longer be able to “jump the queue”, after Brexit.

May will today visit a London airport to promote the proposals without Mr Javid.

Labour MP David Lammy said of the proposal: “The message the government’s ludicrous £30,000 threshold sends is that if you earn less, it does not value your skills.

“It will the block nurses, teachers and construction workers we desperately need and the artists, writers and musicians who add so much.”

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