Mayor issues stark warning on loss of freedom of movement

12 November 2018

The Government will wreak enormous damage on London and the UK’s economy if it prevents businesses from continuing to recruit workers from the EU after Brexit, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will warn today.


Highlighting the huge economic, social and cultural benefit of immigration and freedom of movement from the EU to the capital, Sadiq will today say that many of the capital’s sectors risk being affected if Ministers prioritise reducing immigration.


He will add that some crucial sectors – such as construction, tourism and food, are set to be particularly hard hit by the Government’s post-Brexit immigration policy.


Later this year, Ministers are expected to back the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) which in September said Britain should restrict tier 2 visas to jobs paying over £30,000 a year.


Without a system that provides for some level of free movement of labour between the UK and European Union, this would mean that businesses could struggle to fill thousands of key posts.

At present, almost half of all the jobs in the capital across the board pay less than £30,0000. This includes many important roles in businesses such as construction, restaurants, and hotels – and in many cases those roles are currently filled by non-UK EU workers.


For example, approximately 46,000 jobs, estimated to be 12 per cent of London’s entire construction sector workforce are held by workers born in the rest of the European Economic Area (EEA) earning less than £30,000 per year.


The accommodation and food sector could suffer even worse from a Government immigration clampdown. Around 61,000 jobs, a quarter of the workforce in that sector, are filled by EEA born workers earning less than £30,000.


The Mayor issued his stark warning today as he started a two-day trip to Berlin and Paris. The trip forms part of Sadiq’s wider efforts to protect the capital’s economy from the effects of Brexit and reiterate his message that ‘London Is Open’ to visitors, investment, talent and ideas. 


The benefits of immigration will be on the agenda when Sadiq joins the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Muller, and the Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, for a discussion on the challenges facing European cities at times of rising right-wing populism across Europe.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London has for centuries been open to people from around the world and immigration has enhanced our city enormously. From the clothes we wear, music we listen to and the food we eat, London simply wouldn’t be London without the different migrant communities who bring so much to our city.


We do need a robust, managed immigration system and secure borders, but we also need a system that makes it easier – not harder – to access the workforce that our economy needs.


“But if Ministers are determined to prioritise reducing immigration at the expense of our economic prosperity, they will damage key sectors of the London and UK economies, ultimately at the cost of jobs and growth that benefit all British families.


“Many sectors of London’s economy have a high reliance on workers from the European Union. I want homegrown talent to flourish, but I also recognise that, in a global business capital such as London, we need access to a wider workforce. If the Government prevents European workers from coming here to fill roles in areas such as housebuilding, hospitality and healthcare on moderate salaries, we will see a serious impact on our economy and public services.


“It is clear from the various conversations I have with business leaders that they are extremely worried about the future. The Home Secretary needs to remember that he has a responsibility to consider the needs of key business sectors and our wider economy, and to highlight the flaws in the Migration Advisory Committee’s analysis.”


Other sectors in London that could also be significantly hit by a change in Government migration policy in line with MAC proposals include administrative and support services and manufacturing.


The Mayor has repeatedly called on the Government to recognise the benefits that immigration and freedom of movement have brought, and can continue to bring, to our economy and society and to prioritise jobs, growth and future prosperity over politically driven policies to reduce immigration. He believes that qualified freedom of movement of people is the best way to protect economic prosperity in London and the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.


Ten days ago, Sadiq visited Brussels and met the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, urging the EU and the 27 other member states to begin preparing to extend Article 50, the law that paves the way for a country leaving the EU.


Next month, Sadiq will take his message to Dublin where he will meet with leading Irish business leaders and senior politicians.

Notes to editors

Sources: Office for National Statistics, Annual Population Survey – 2017; Office for National Statistics, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings – 2017; estimates by GLA Economics.

GLA Economics calculations: the estimated share of EEA workers earning less than £30,000 per annum is calculated by applying the share jobs held by EEA workers in each industry to the percentage of employee jobs paying less than £30,000 per year. Numbers are calculated by aplying this to estimates of total jobs in each industry. Note: this methodology implicitly assumes that the proportion of employee jobs paid below £30,000 is the same for self-employed jobs and for EEA and non-EEA workers as well as for jobs held for less than one year.

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