Mayor of London Sadiq Khan Wednesday accused Theresa May’s government of ducking the issue of immigration as the country prepares to leave the European Union (EU).
In a keynote speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Khan warned that the government’s strategy to look tough on immigration during the Brexit negotiations is “one of the most severe, irresponsible and selfish mistakes by any political party in decades.”
Addressing business leaders, the Labour mayor said qualified freedom of movement of people is the best way to protect economic prosperity in London and Britain in the aftermath of Brexit.
Speaking at the CBI Autumn Lunch in London, Khan said that for London and the rest of the country to prosper, it’s vital that Britain continues to have barrier-free access to the “dynamic European workforce.”
He said it is possible to address concerns in parts of the country about the pace of immigration, and the impact this has had on communities, without losing membership of the European Single Market and keeping our access to European talents.
Sadiq’s speech coincided with the publication today of his immigration plan for London and Britain, which he described as a “blueprint for what the Government should be doing.”
The mayor’s migration plan calls on May’s government to provide a cast iron guarantee that EU nationals in Britain are welcome to stay.
He wants the government to recognize the benefits that immigration and freedom of movement have brought.
Khan says jobs, growth and future prosperity should take priority over politically driven policies to reduce immigration.
His blueprint calls for British Brexit negotiators to pursue a transitional arrangement with the EU which maintains the status quo, and seeks to negotiate a long-term agreement based on remaining part of the Single Market.
He also wants to see the introduction of a post-study work policy giving international students the chance to work in Britain after graduation for 12-24 months.
He has called for the remove of international students from the annual net migration target as a matter of urgency and adoption of a pro-active approach to bring global talent to Britain by reforming the current non-EU visa system.
Khan said in his speech: “The government’s long-term position on access to talent remains vague. It’s time for us to stand up and make the case for the freedom of movement of people and the benefits it has brought to our economy.”
“Immigration brings new skills and innovation to our shores. But despite this it has become an issue too many of our leaders have ducked,” said the mayor.
Khan said the government’s non-EU visa system is no longer fit for purpose.
“A clear signal of our ambition would be to begin reforming the visa system now,” he said.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Keeping London ahead of our global competitors is a top priority for the capital’s businesses. Businesses urgently need a pragmatic and determined approach from the EU and the UK in Brexit negotiations to lock in investment decisions that will affect jobs and growth for years to come. A quick transition agreement will allow us to start shaping our future trade relationship with the EU.” Enditem