LONDON, Nov 22 (PTI): Opposition Labour Party on Tuesday set out a plan for what the UK’s immigration policy would look like if it were to win a future general election, as its leader categorically called on businesses to work towards reducing their economic dependency on migrant foreign workers.
Sir Keir Starmer told business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference in Birmingham that the days of low pay and cheap labour must end and that companies must invest more on training up workers already available in the country.
With reference to the current points-based system of visas, the Opposition leader said firms will be expected to present a clear plan on how they would develop the skills of British workers when they sponsor foreigners to come and work in the country.
“I want to be clear here – with my Labour government, any movement in our point-based migration system, whether via the skilled occupation route or the shortage worker list, will come with new conditions for business,” Starmer said.
“We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan for higher skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology. But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency. To start investing more in training up workers who are already here,” he said.
The party leader, who has been enjoying a recent boost in the opinion polls as the Conservative Party led government struggles through recent leadership upheavals and a crippling economic crisis, said a Labour government would be “pragmatic” in its approach to immigration.
In a clear attempt to draw a line under the party’s previous anti-Brexit stance, Starmer promised a “new partnership” with business which is “different than anything that has gone before”.
“This is a different Labour Party and there’s no going back. We’re ready for partnership,” Starmer told business leaders.
He accused the Conservatives of hiding behind global shocks: “Nobody criticises the government for not anticipating the war in Ukraine, or denies the war was the spark for the cost-of-living crisis – but the war didn’t ban onshore wind, the war didn’t scrap home insulation and the war didn’t stall British nuclear energy.”
His speech comes a day after a keynote speech by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who highlighted that “proper control of our borders” was one of the immediate benefits of Brexit and said curbing illegal migration was the “country’s number one priority right now”.
Immigration to the UK was one of the leading issues that led to the UK voting to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016, with the aim of ending the economic bloc’s freedom of movement rules.
The issue of immigration has since dominated the political agenda, with the two main parties clashing over the right formula of maintaining a balance on legal migration and cracking down on illegal routes.