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George Eustice

Vanessa Ganguin provides commentary for Personnel Today

UK needs more EU work immigration says Brexit champion – Vanessa Ganguin responds in Personnel Today

10 July 2023

George Eustice has called upon the government to seek bilateral negotiations with European countries to create Youth Mobility Schemes that would allow younger EU workers the right to two-year visas to work in the UK.

The former environment secretary, who backed Brexit, said a policy allowing EU workers under the age of 35 would help solve “acute” labour shortage in sectors including hospitality, food and farming.

Last month, former farmer Eustice said people who are good with their hands and able to judge the condition of crops, should not be regarded as “low-skilled”.

Speaking to the Observer this weekend, Eustice continued his criticism of the Home Office’s skills-based immigration rules and the shortage occupation list.

“The flaws in our current so-called skills-based immigration system are becoming clearer by the day because we have got a policy that does not correspond to the needs of our economy,” he told the newspaper.

“We are allowing in people who are deemed skilled such as lawyers, insolvency practitioners, museum officers, even disc jockeys, when we have no shortages whatsoever in those sectors. But we are not allowing people to come here to work in sectors like the food industry, even though there are acute labour shortages in these sectors, and that is contributing to inflation.

“So that is the big problem. My proposal is that we commence bilateral negotiations with EU member states, starting with countries like Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states, and widen it to the whole of the EU eventually, to establish a reciprocal youth-mobility visa scheme…”

In March, the Migration Advisory Committee added more roles in the construction sector to the shortage occupation list but hospitality did not receive the same potential boost. But because overall employment in hospitality had recovered since a large fall during the pandemic the committee said it did not recommend any of the sector’s occupations for the shortlist – including chefs, restaurant or bar managers.

Immigration law specialist Vanessa Ganguin told Personnel Today: “Sectors as diverse as fishing, hospitality and construction have faced acute labour shortages since George Eustice and his colleagues chose to end free movement with the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

“Restoring such flexibility to the labour market is clearly the easiest way to address the crippling inflation Britain faces and it’s refreshing that an ardent Brexiteer such as George Eustice is now identifying that UK employers aren’t being served as well by a points-based immigration system that doesn’t tackle the sorts of labour shortages the food industry faces for example, leading to price inflation.”

The UK has just expanded its reciprocal Youth Mobility Schemes as part of free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand to allow people aged 35 and under to work in the UK and vice versa.

Ganguin added: “It makes little sense to have such reciprocal schemes with a dozen countries from Taiwan to Canada, as well as Iceland, San Marino and Monaco but not with the rest of our European neighbours.”

She said a Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) for EU workers would avoid the pitfalls of the seasonal worker scheme for farming which can trap people with abusive employers or paying off massive debts to “fixers” to come to the UK.