The UK government has distanced itself from a proposal made by a minister for a £1,000-a-year levy on each EU skilled worker recruited by British employers after Brexit.
Home Office minister Robert Goodwill had told a House of Lords subcommittee that the "immigration skills levy" could be introduced for EU migrants and would "be helpful to British workers who feel they are overlooked" in favour of migrants.
But amid a business backlash the government said the plan was not on its agenda and suggested Goodwill’s remarks had been "misinterpreted".
"As the minister said, there are a whole range of options we could consider to control immigration once we leave the EU," said a Home Office spokeswoman, reports newspaper The Guardian. "The people of this country spoke very clearly in the referendum and we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again."
It has been estimated that nearly 12% of the UK’s 2.1 million construction workers come from abroad, mainly from the EU.
Goodwill told the Lords subcommittee that restrictions on employers hiring labour from outside Europe, including a levy, would be applied to recruitment from the EU after Britain leaves.
"In April this year we are … bringing in the immigration skills charge for non-EEA skilled workers. If you want to recruit an Indian computer programmer on a four-year contract on top of the existing visa charges and the resident labour market test there will be a fee of £1,000 per year," Goodwill said, reports The Guardian.
"So for a four-year contract that employer will need to pay a £4,000 immigration skills charge. That is something that currently applies to non-EU and it has been suggested to us that could be applied to EU."
Image: Nearly 12% of the UK’s 2.1 million construction workers come from abroad, mainly from the EU (Michael Spring/Dreamstime)