POST-Brexit Britain will attract the world’s best talent without any special favours for EU citizens, the Cabinet last night decided.
Theresa May’s top table gave its backing to a “global” new immigration system that will treat all nationalities the same.
The decision is a major victory for Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who has waged a bitter battle against other ministries such as the Treasury to halt preferential treatment for EU citizens and finally end free movement.
Also under Mr Javid’s blueprint, low skilled migration will be cut and new arrivals with talent will increase in a bid to boost the economy’s longterm productivity problems.
The plan has major implications for the Brexit negotiations, as special access to Britain can now no longer be able to traded away for a better trade deal with Brussels now that Cabinet has signed it off.
Some limited exceptions to the principle will be built into the new system to protect the economy. Lower skilled workers will be granted entry in areas where there are serious labour market shortages that have not been able to be filled from the domestic market – such as in hospitality and construction.
The Cabinet victory for Mr Javid was dubbed “a slam dunk” last night, after he won earlier support from the PM for it. Chancellor Philip Hammond made a plea for the Cabinet to give the new system more thought before they made a decision, but he was rebuffed.
Business Secretary Greg Clark also insisted on the need to be flexible with Brussels during a long discussion yesterday afternoon.
But a Cabinet source said: “There was a little bit of grumbling from the usual suspects, Philip and Greg, but they folded pretty quickly. It was a very well executed operation by Sajid, as he had all the facts on his side.”
Mr Javid’s plan was boosted by a presentation to Cabinet yesterday by the chair of the independent Migration Advisory Committee, Professor Alan Manning. The LSE professor repeated his findings from a landmark, year-long report last week that there was little need for low skilled immigration to the UK.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was also said to have taken a dig at Mr Hammond during the No10 meeting.
The Sun was told that passionate Brexiteer Ms McVey said to the table: “We’re told by some people that we’re going to have a recession when we leave, and at the same time that we need mass immigration to keep the economy afloat. They can’t both be correct”.
Downing Street is keeping the Cabinet’s formal conclusions under wraps so that she can unveil them in her speech to Tory conference next week.
But in a strong hint at what we decided, a No10 spokesman said last night: “Cabinet today received a presentation from Migration Advisory Committee chairman Professor Alan Manning.
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“Cabinet was told by Professor Manning that the MAC was recommending that, in the post-Brexit immigration system, EEA and non-EEA nationals should be part of one universal system.
“A key conclusion was that high skilled migration is of greater economic benefit than lower skilled migration, and as such the MAC recommended that the new system should make it easier for higher skilled than lower skilled workers to come to the UK.
“The Cabinet agreed that, once free movement is brought to an end, the Government will be able to introduce a new system which works in the best interests of the United Kingdom – including by helping to boost productivity.”
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