Devolved ministers join forces to challenge UK’s ‘restrictive’ immigration policy

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Labor shortages across the UK are largely the result of Westminster’s ‘overly restrictive’ immigration system, ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have insisted .

In a letter to UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster, representatives of the three devolved administrations claimed that the processes for skilled workers wishing to come to Britain were “inflexible, costly and bureaucratic” and had also served to ” exclude many of the key workers we need”. , many of which have been crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The letter, from Scotland’s Minister for Europe, Neil Gray, Welsh Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, and Minister for the Economy of Northern Ireland, Gordon Lyons, says there are “serious labor and skills shortages” in the four UK countries.

But they say the UK government has failed to ‘work constructively’ with devolved administrations to try to address the problem.

Devolved government ministers have written to UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/AP)

Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish politicians have insisted the Home Office should “immediately reintroduce” regular four-way meetings where such matters can be discussed.

They told Mr Foster: ‘The UK government has said they want the immigration system to work for all parts of the UK.

“Without a commitment to regular and meaningful engagement with devolved governments, this is simply not possible.”

UK ministers have also been urged to ‘immediately review the immigration skills and health surcharges and reduce additional fees’, with the governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast arguing that these may constitute an “insurmountable obstacle for workers and employers”.

They added: “As things stand, the UK has one of the most expensive immigration systems and this cannot continue if it is to be an attractive destination for global talent abroad. to come up.”

Mr. Gray, Ms. Hutt and Mr. Lyons reiterated their calls for devolved administrations to be given a formal role in choosing the professions that are lacking in their countries, in order to facilitate the recruitment of foreign workers into these positions.

“We call on the UK government to act urgently,” they said.

The three ministers told Mr Foster that it was essential that their administrations be involved in the issue, arguing: “Migration is a cross-cutting policy area affecting many aspects of delegated competences, including the economy, housing, health care and local service delivery.

However, they claimed: ‘Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the UK Government has consistently failed to consult, collaborate or work constructively with devolved governments on any changes to the immigration system.

“This is despite the severe labor and skills shortages facing all four countries, which can largely be attributed to the overly restrictive UK immigration system.”

They added: “We are doing everything in our power to meet the needs of businesses, but the measures we are taking must be complemented by immediate changes to the immigration system in order to quickly access the workforce. work and the skills that our nations need to survive the current crisis.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘Our points-based immigration system is talent and skills driven and allows the brightest and the best to live and study in the UK a great deal. easier.

“We continue to engage with the devolved administrations on immigration policies, but it is important that employers invest in the UK national workforce for the long term rather than relying on overseas labour.”