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UK Immigration Policy Debate Ahead of Snap Election

With a surprise snap election called for July 4th in the UK, the topic of immigration policy is taking center stage in the campaigns of the two major parties — the incumbent Conservatives and the challenging Labour Party.

According to Fragomen's Shuyeb Muquit, polls are indicating a likely change in government, with Labour expected to take over after 14 years of Conservative rule. However, despite the rhetoric, Shuyeb predicts very little substantive difference between the two parties' stances on immigration.

"Our considered view is that despite different labels and different noises that each of them are making in framing their approaches to policy, in the context of immigration itself, we see very little difference between the Conservative party and the Labour party," said Shuyeb.

Both parties are emphasizing reducing net migration numbers and focusing employer recruitment efforts more on the domestic labor market versus overseas hiring. A greater focus on illegal and irregular migration, rather than legal skilled worker migration, is also expected regardless of which party takes power.

The UK's points-based immigration system, originally introduced under Labour, is anticipated to remain intact, with potential "tinkering at the edges" but no major overhaul. The Conservatives had recently explored increasing salary thresholds and visa fees, proposals that Labour has not strongly objected to.

"What will change, of course, is certain calibrations," noted Shuyeb. "But even then, they will be really tinkering on the edges rather than any major substantive changes."

Labour's key differentiator may be adding more requirements for employers to demonstrate investing in domestic workforce training before being eligible to sponsor foreign nationals.

While the political back-and-forth captures headlines, Shuyeb emphasized that "in terms of the direction of travel, we don't expect much change, but there is also much opportunity for engagement by business to try and influence what that change, if it is going to happen, will be."

Employers with operations in the UK would be wise to monitor the election developments, engage proactively with policymakers on both sides, and prepare contingency plans. But radical transformations to the UK's core skilled immigration infrastructure seem unlikely regardless of the election's outcome.

You can access Shuyeb's full report from The View From The Top here.

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Michelle Curran
Created on 11-6-2024