UK work permit policies are a 'block to growth'

16 Nov 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

It has been suggested that the government's policies governing UK work permits are a “block to growth” and are preventing institutions within Britain from recruiting the brightest talent.

London mayor Boris Johnson made the statement ahead of a visit to India. He told the Hindu Business Line: “We are losing a massive business opportunity here, which is completely crazy for the UK market – which is brilliant at higher education – to be closing itself off from some of the best and brightest students from around the world.”

Mr Johnson has been supported in his views by the CBI director general, John Cridland, who went so far as to suggest that the government should scrap its target of cutting net immigration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015. Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Cridland stated that the higher education market is being particularly badly affected by the Tory-led coalition's approach to UK immigration, due to the growing global perception that Britain is no longer welcoming overseas students.

He said: “It's partly a perception issue. There's just been so much rhetoric that it's creating its own reality, it's putting people off.”

As far as the CBI head is concerned, the heart of the problem is the immigration target. At the moment, ministers don't have a means of effectively keeping track of how many people leave the country, making it almost impossible to impose a limit. Even if this was possible, the current net migration level is 216,000, making the 'tens of thousands' target somewhat overly ambitious.

Earlier this quarter, Lord O'Donnell suggested that the annual limit on UK work permits is proving to be a “big barrier to growth”. His article in The Times echoed the sentiments of Mr Johnson and Mr Cridland, noting that the government is at risk of “shooting itself in the foot” with its immigration policies, which could stand in the way of economic expansion.