News | Legal News

01 December 2016

Ending free movement ‘could hit businesses and prices’

Bringing an end to free movement of low-skilled EU workers into the UK could see businesses close, food prices rise and social care cut, a parliamentary committee has heard.

A work permit system would be the most practicable option for controlling migration, the Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has been told.

However, in the probe into the impact of Brexit, the committee was told that registering up to 3.9 million EU nationals already resident in Britain is a "formidable logistical, bureaucratic, administrative and legal task".

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research's Jonathan Portes, says there could be consequences for agricultural industries, ranging from shutting down and forcing consumers to buy products from abroad, to higher wages - the cost of which is likely to be passed on to consumers.

Mr Portes, a former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, said: "The evidence we have suggests that on the whole, additional immigration doesn't lead to reduced employment of UK workers. And, of course, unemployment is already pretty low in the UK at the moment. So, it seems unlikely that the main way employers would adjust would be by simply hiring Brits."

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, says an "emergency brake" on immigration only limits numbers and does not take individual skills into account.

Ms Sumption believes a work permit system could be flexible to take account of the needs of various sectors of the economy.

Responding to the news, a Home Office spokesman said: "Government has been clear that, as we conduct our negotiations, it must be a priority to regain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe. It would not be right for us to give a running commentary on negotiations."

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