September 21, 2023

Senior Tory Brexiteer George Eustice admits UK needs more EU workers

A leading Tory Brexiteer has admitted that the UK needs more workers from the EU to ease labor shortages and tackle inflation.

Former Environment Minister George Eustice called on Rishi Sunak to sign bilateral agreements with European countries offering youth work visas.

He lashed out at the prime minister for labor shortages and resulting inflationary pressures, claiming these were not caused by Brexit, but by “the failure of our post-Brexit immigration policy”.

And Mr Eustice challenged Mr Sunak about “flaws” in the current “so-called skills-based immigration system”, adding that the policies do not match the needs of the economy.

While not advocating a return to free movement between the UK and the EU, Mr Eustice urged Mr Sunak to “rekindle the post-Brexit friendship with our European neighbours”.

The former minister’s comments will be seen as an admission of the shortcomings of the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy. They come amid growing unease among Conservative MPs over the failure of Brexit, and as senior Tory Tobias Ellwood has called for Britain to rejoin the single market.

said Mr. Eustice The observer: “We let in people who are considered competent, such as lawyers, curators, museum employees, even disc jockeys, while we have no shortage in those sectors.

“But we don’t allow people to come here to work in sectors like the food industry, even though there is an acute labor shortage in these sectors and that contributes to inflation.

“So that’s the big problem. My proposal is that we start bilateral negotiations with EU Member States, starting with countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic States, and eventually extending them to the entire EU, to establish a reciprocal visa program for youth mobility.”

Mr Eustice said the agreements should allow EU citizens under the age of 35 to live and work in the UK for two years, while allowing UK citizens to do the same in EU member states with deals.

His intervention is the latest sign of a split within the Conservative Party on immigration, just days after a group of right-wing MPs launched the so-called New Conservatives.

The group calls on Mr Sunak to crack down on foreign aid workers and foreign students to reduce net migration from 606,000 to less than 226,000 before the next election.

The New Conservatives group was slammed by No10 and labeled “populist and isolationist” by fellow Tory MPs.

Eustice also attacked Theresa May’s post-Brexit immigration policy, calling it “an enduring interpretation of what Brexit was about”.

“This idea of ​​not having temporary visa arrangements didn’t come from the Vote Leave campaign,” he said.

Mr Eustice added: “That was not what Brexit was about. People wanted controlled immigration and not pull up the drawbridge and let no one in at all.”

Industries such as hospitality, retail, construction and transport have been devastated by the post-Brexit loss of EU workers.

The British Retail Consortium has blamed Brexit for “exacerbating the labor shortage” facing the sector.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We already have successful youth mobility programs with 10 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, and remain open to agreeing them with our international partners, including the EU member states.

“We are working closely with the Migration Advisory Committee to ensure that our points-based system works for the UK and works in the interests of the economy, including reviewing the Shortage Occupation List to ensure it reflects the current job market. reflects.”

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