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Leaving the EU: Immigration Rules

Volume 631: debated on Monday 20 November 2017

5. What discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the economic effect of changes to immigration rules after the UK leaves the EU. (901909)

As we leave the European Union, we will be able to control our immigration more effectively. We will make sure we do that in a way that supports our economy; after 40 years of free movement of labour, we will need to do that. We will address the situation with the evidence we get from the Migration Advisory Committee, which will be reporting towards the middle end of next year.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Will the Home Secretary confirm to dairy farmers and other businesses in Dumfries and Galloway that they will still be able to hire migrant labourers on long-term contracts after Brexit?

I am aware of the issue with dairy farmers, as well as the other needs of industry for migrant workers. Rest assured that, when we decide on the right immigration policy after we leave the European Union, we will make sure it continues to support our economy.

The all-party parliamentary group on migration, which I chair, recently conducted research asking a whole range of businesses about their labour needs and the effect of Brexit. Those businesses uniformly told us that it is not just a case of access to highly skilled labour but many jobs that are characterised as low skilled would also be difficult to fill if they could not access the EU labour market. Will the Home Secretary consider that report? What assurances can she give businesses across a whole range of sectors, from food processing to construction to care?

I share the hon. Lady‘s view. We talk enthusiastically and positively about wanting to be a country that attracts the brightest and best to support our economy, but we recognise that there will also be a need for migrant labour in different areas—potentially in construction and potentially in dairy farming, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack) said. Dairy farming is exactly the sort of area on which I hope the Migration Advisory Committee will be able to report next year.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State could also take seasonal workers into account. In my constituency we will have people turkey plucking, with Christmas coming up. A lot of these people are migrant workers—people who work on farms, fruit farms, and in the tourism and catering industries—but many are only temporary, so will she indicate whether this might be looked on favourably in the future?

My hon. Friend raises a good and important point about Christmas. I reassure her that we will be looking carefully at the need for migrant labour in that sector, too, but, above all, we will want to rely on the evidence, which is why the report from the Migration Advisory Committee is going to be so important.

The hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) rightly refers to fruit farms, and it therefore seems apposite for me to call Joanna Cherry.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I add my good wishes to Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, on my behalf and that of my SNP colleagues, on the occasion of their 70th wedding anniversary?

Data analysis submitted to the MAC by the Scottish Government shows that in Scotland EU nationals who work in Scotland contribute an average of £34,400 each per annum to gross domestic product—that is more than £4.4 billion a year. Does the Home Secretary agree that that evidence shows that Brexit is putting a vital contribution to Scotland’s economy at risk?

I point out to the hon. and learned Lady that we have not left the EU yet, so that labour will continue to be available until we do. I am delighted to hear that there has been an additional submission from Scotland, and I am sure the MAC will look carefully at the evidence provided.

Scotland’s demographic profile is very different from that of the rest of the UK, because over the next 10 years Scotland’s population growth is projected to come entirely—100%—from migration, whereas the comparator figure for the UK is 58%. Will the Home Secretary look carefully at supporting the devolution of immigration to Scotland, in response to this strong evidence of divergence and to address concerns such as those raised by the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack)?

The hon. and learned Lady will be aware that immigration remains a reserved matter. We will, nevertheless, be considering the needs of the UK as a whole. I recognise that Scotland has some particular circumstances and need for skilled labour. There is a Scotland-specific shortage occupation list, which will cover some of the areas she has drawn attention to, but I am sure that she, like me, will look forward with eager anticipation to the MAC’s report next year.

We on this side of the House would also like to congratulate Her Royal Highness on her 70th wedding anniversary.

Does the Secretary of State share the concerns of the National Farmers Union, which reports a fourfold increase in the number of vacancies because of the falling number of EU workers, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which says that the growth of the car industry depends on access to skilled labour in Europe, and of the Nursing & Midwifery Council, which reports a 96% drop in nurse registrations from the EU? Does she not recognise that industry wants answers on these issues sooner rather than later?

What I recognise is the incredible value that EU workers and professionals provide in the UK—we are fortunate to have so many of them working here. We will make sure that the immigration policy we design as we leave the EU continues to get the best out of that, but also adds some controls; we must acknowledge the fact that, having voted to leave the EU, the public expect us to put some controls on it. We will do that, but in a way that continues to welcome EU workers, who provide such important work in areas such as hospitals and schools.