Post-Brexit work permit system for London

MQT on 2016-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2016
Question By: 
Gareth Bacon
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How will your proposals for a separate work permit system for London work in practice?


Answer for Post-Brexit work permit system for London

Answer for Post-Brexit work permit system for London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question, Assembly Member Bacon.  Let me be clear: I want to consider all options for making sure that London remains open.  This is a critical issue for London business and for higher education.  Access to talent is a vital part of London’s economy and culture, creating jobs and driving innovation.  We have been able to become one of the biggest, richest and best cities on earth because of our openness over many decades to talented people from around the world.  The Government must therefore ensure that the visa system is flexible.


The certainty around Brexit means that London now, more than ever, needs to stay internationally competitive.  This is vital not just for London; this is vital for the rest of the United Kingdom (UK), too.  The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the City of London Corporation are both looking at how we can best ensure that London continues to be able to attract top talent from around the world.  As a pro-business Mayor, I look forward to seeing their proposals.


As I have made clear  on numerous occasions, my position is that we need to maintain as much access as possible to the single market.  I see advantages to a system that will make sure London is open and competitive.  However, this cannot be one that restricts London’s access to the talent that we need.  There have been a number of suggestions put forward as to how a London-focused route for overseas talent might work, but nothing concrete has been proposed to date.  Immigration policy is set at the UK level and, from discussions with Scotland and other parts of the UK, I know that access to talent is a concern not just for London.


This issue cannot be seen in isolation.  London needs more autonomy to respond to the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.  We are therefore working on a range of devolution proposals in partnership with London Councils and others to achieve this.  This is why I have reconvened the London Finance Commission to look at how London can finance the infrastructure and high-quality public services it needs.


This work includes skills devolution, which will play an important role in making sure Londoners can make the most of the opportunities of living in the greatest city in the world.  This could be particularly crucial when over 1 million European Union (EU) citizens live and work in London and our economy relies on them.  Because this Government is using them as bargaining chip, there is real uncertainty over how many will stay after Brexit.  We could be left with a chronic skill shortage that hits London more than elsewhere.  This strengthens the case for a London-led, tailored skills policy to help to fill these gaps.


Gareth Bacon AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I agree - somewhat unusually - with 95% of what you have just said.  The thing that I disagree with - I will just get that on the table now - is the “bargaining chip” line that you just used.  I was just about to agree with everything you just said, but I do not agree on that.  As you know, there are millions of UK nationals living in Europe and, if the Prime Minister were to guarantee that everyone from the EU could stay here come what may, it would prejudice, potentially, UK nationals living in Europe.  That is why that has not been agreed yet.


The general sweep of what you have just said I would tend to agree with.  EU nationals in particular living in the UK and particularly in London have contributed to London’s economy and I do not think that there can be any doubt about that.


I am interested, though, in precisely how you see it working and what sort of timelines you have for putting this together.  Do you see it as a multi-layered visa or just one?  Would it be a version of the highly skilled migrant visa?  How do you see it working?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I, firstly, thank you for the tenor of your response?  We will just have to disagree in relation to the “bargaining chip” point.


Gareth Bacon AM:  It would not be the first time we have disagreed and so I can live with that.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working on proposals, as is the City of London Corporation.  Once they have given me their proposals, we will consider them.  I am happy to discuss them with you as somebody who supports trying to make sure that we are open to talent.  We are going to work with the Government in relation to making sure that any proposals are workable.  Let us be frank.  The proposals may not be workable from our analysis before we even submit them to the Government and so let us wait and see what the LCCI and the City of London Corporation come up with.


Gareth Bacon AM:  The LCCI has written to me.  They have seen the question and have written to me asking me what the motivation for this was and is it the work  that they were doing andthere is a report that they have published and they are also hosting a seminar - I think it is next week - which I will be going to.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Brilliant.


Gareth Bacon AM:  I am genuinely interested in this.  Are you just going to rely on the LCCI’s recommendations and the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) or are you working up some of your own?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  At the moment, it is the City of London and the LCCI.  We are reliant on them to do the work.


Gareth Bacon AM:  Sorry, not the CBI.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We are not at the moment spending resources doing that piece of work because we do not want to duplicate what others are doing.  If there is a need for us to supplement that we are willing to do so, but we are doing other work around devolution and so we are trying to divvy up what different people do as part of the London family.


Gareth Bacon AM:  OK.  You have no firm views yet about what kind of visa, how it would be enforced or anything like that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.  What we are going to do is we are going to review the proposals that the LCCI and the City of London come up with and then discuss how to take that forward.


Gareth Bacon AM:  Do you have a timeline for that?  The reason for asking that is ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Good question.  They think that they will let us have those by November 2016.  We need to move sooner rather than later because, in the meantime, there is the need to make sure we carry on attracting talent.  If you have a multinational, if you have a small business or medium-sized business or if you have a start‑up, you are thinking about how to attract talent and you will want to keep those people who are here as well who are talented.


Gareth Bacon AM:  The Prime Minister announced that Article 50 would be invoked by the end of March 2017.  Do you envisage your proposals being fully worked up and publicly available before then?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If she carries through that announcement - and we have heard about the changes to the Heathrow announcement - in relation to Article 50 by March or April 2017, do not forget that we still have two years for the negotiations and that could be extended as well.  Let us wait and see how firmed up the proposals are from the LCCI and the City of London.  If they are brilliant, then it is a slam-dunk.  If they need work or if we have real concerns about them, they may take time.  Unless I see them, I cannot really make a decision.


Gareth Bacon AM:  That is fair enough.  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Thank you, Chairman.