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UK studying annual levy on skilled EU workers, minister says

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill told a parliamentary committee that such a levy was due to come into force in April for non-EU workers

Gulf News

London: Britain is considering introducing an annual £1,000 (Dh4,431) “immigration skills charge” after Brexit on every skilled worker from an European Union (EU) member state recruited by a British employer, a junior minister said on Wednesday.

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill told a parliamentary committee that such a levy was due to come into force in April for non-EU workers, and the government was studying the idea of extending it to skilled EU workers.

“For example, if one wishes to recruit an Indian computer programmer on a four-year contract, on top of the existing visa charges and the administration involved around that ... there will be a fee of £1,000 per year,” Goodwill said.

“That’s something that currently applies to non-EU. That may be something that’s been suggested to us that could apply to EU.

But as I say, we are not in a position at the moment to really speculate as to what the settlement will be post Brexit negotiations.” The suggestion drew a swift response from the Institute of Directors (IoD), an employers’ organisation, which said such a levy would hit businesses that are dependent on skills from abroad.

“We urge the government to reconsider this proposal,” said Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills at the IoD.

“This tax will only damage jobs growth at a time when many businesses are living with uncertainty. They simply cannot endure the double whammy of more restriction and then, if they do succeed in finding the right candidate, the prospect of an extra charge.” Goodwill also told the lawmakers he would welcome their suggestions as to “what you feel would be effective and helpful, not only to the British economy but also to British workers who in many cases might feel a little bit that they’ve been overlooked because other people have come into the country already with the skills that they would like to themselves get”.

Responding to questions from reporters about the idea of extending the immigration skills charge to EU nationals, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said: “Those comments have been taken out of context.

“What he said was there are a number of options that could be considered. The point is that this government is focused on delivering a system that reduces immigration.” The Liberal Democrats, a pro-EU opposition party that was in coalition with the ruling Conservatives between 2010 and 2015, called Goodwill’s suggestion “idiotic”.

“Be under no illusions, this plan would kill off British businesses,” said Don Foster, the party’s business policy chief.

“The Conservatives used to represent business interests. They have now sacrificed them on the altar of populism.”