LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May and her ministers have agreed to focus Britain’s post-Brexit migration system on high-skilled migrants and will not offer preference to European Union workers, newspapers said.
In a nod to the concerns of businesses, the plan backed by May’s cabinet on Monday would also allow some access for low-skilled foreign workers, the newspapers said.
Last week, official advisers recommended prioritising high-skilled migrant workers coming to Britain after Brexit, alarming companies in low-paid sectors. They also said there should be no preferential treatment for workers from the EU.
The Financial Times said that while ministers backed the advisers’ proposals, the idea of giving no preferential treatment to EU workers could change if Britain agrees a trade deal with the bloc.
“That would mean a better deal on migration, but the same offer would be available if we struck trade deals with other countries around the world,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
With little more than six months to go before Britain leaves the EU, London and Brussels remain at loggerheads on what their future relationship will look like, and May has insisted on new controls for migrant workers from the bloc.
Spokesmen for May’s office and for Britain’s interior ministry declined to comment on the reports.
Earlier, May’s office said the ministers had agreed that Britain would be able to “introduce a new system which works in the best interests of the United Kingdom – including by helping to boost productivity.”
The government’s advisers said in their report that evidence suggested high-skilled migrants had a more positive impact on productivity than lower-skilled workers from abroad.
After she was rebuffed by other EU leaders who told her last week that her Brexit plans would not work, May told her ministers that they must hold their nerve in the impasse, her office said after Monday’s cabinet meeting.
May said her plan was the only viable one on the table and that she remained confident of securing a deal, it said in a statement. “At the same time, the government will continue to sensibly plan for no deal,” the statement quoted her as saying.
May’s government published a latest batch of notices on Monday explaining to businesses and individuals what could happen if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.
The lack of an agreement could hamper airlines, stop the movement of goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and cause headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, documents showed.
Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Tom Brown