Minister 'won't get into a numbers game' over whether immigration into Yorkshire will rise or fall after Brexit

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster in Leeds today. Pic: Gary LongbottomImmigration Minister Kevin Foster in Leeds today. Pic: Gary Longbottom
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster in Leeds today. Pic: Gary Longbottom | jpimediaresell
A government Minister has refused to say whether the number of migrants coming into Yorkshire will increase or decrease as a result of radical immigration reforms which will come into force next year.

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said the new system, which will not include a visa option for low-skilled migrant workers after Brexit, would ensure industries are focused on investing in their own workforces and "not looking to take the easier options of just recruiting from abroad".

Speaking on a visit to a construction site in Leeds he said the new system, which replaces the concept of freedom of movement around the European Union, would bring in more skilled workers to fill gaps in areas where they are needed.

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Business leaders fear certain sections of the Yorkshire economy such as tourism, hospitality, agriculture and care, will suffer under the new system because of their reliance on low-skilled labour from Europe.

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster talks to The Yorkshire Post in Leeds. Pic: Gary LongbottomImmigration Minister Kevin Foster talks to The Yorkshire Post in Leeds. Pic: Gary Longbottom
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster talks to The Yorkshire Post in Leeds. Pic: Gary Longbottom | jpimediaresell
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Mr Foster said the three million European citizens who already live in this country will be able to stay under the EU Settlement Scheme after the Brexit transition period ends at the end of this year.

And he told The Yorkshire Post: "What we're saying is that in future we need to move away from a dependence in certain industries on cheap labour coming in from abroad and a focus on investing in skills and talents.

"In many of those industries, it will actually become slightly easier to recruit skilled workers from across the globe, given we're changing the threshold from degree level to A-Level in terms of the points based system."

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He said industries like tourism and hospitality needed to make their job packages attractive with the help of government and not "default to bring in cheap labour from abroad".

When asked whether migration into Yorkshire would go up or down as a result of the changes, the MP for Torbay said: "I'm not going to get into a particular numbers game but we're clear that the system will work for the whole of the United Kingdom, and each region of the United Kingdom will bring the skills and talents here that people want to see, and also build public confidence.

"People can see the criteria people who come to this country and know it's been decided by those they've elected, that we haven't been able to say that for nearly 50 years, we will soon be able to say that."

Home Secretary Priti Patel has previously made a commitment to reduce "overall" immigration to the UK.

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He was visiting the site of the new Dixons Trinity school, which will provide an all-through primary and secondary school education for the community in the Leeds suburb of Chapeltown when it opens later this year.

Industry leaders have warned that changes to UK immigration rules could "spell absolute disaster" for the care system as well as farmers, builders and hospitality businesses.

But Ms Patel said yesterday that industries relying on a migrant workforce should look closer to home when recruiting new employees.

"It is about time businesses started to invest in people in this country," she told Sky News.

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"We have over eight million people - that is 20% of the workforce - aged between 16 and 64 that are economically inactive right now.

"It is down to businesses to work well with the Government and join us in investing in people, levelling up across the UK so we can have wage growth across the entire country."

The Cabinet minister said it was "ridiculous" to suggest the Home Office was putting the brakes entirely on businesses recruiting from abroad.

She said workers could come to the UK as long as they were sponsored by an employer and met the points-based criteria, including earning at least £25,600 in skilled professions, as part of changes that will come into force next year.

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A policy statement outlining a new points-based system after freedom of movement ends said the economy needs to move away from a reliance on "cheap labour from Europe".

The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer, and there may be concessions for those earning no less than £20,480 as long as they still meet certain requirements or their occupation is short of staff.

David Brown, the head of Leeds-based Migration Yorkshire, said: “What many people will want to see now is the detail of how this delivers for people in Yorkshire, for businesses, for local communities and for all those migrants who are an integral part of our society.

"Success is likely to be measured on whether this helps us to continue as a region that is economically vibrant and culturally rich with compassionate, cohesive communities.”