(Title Image: Welsh Government)
Wales needs a flexible and managed approach to migration
Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath) acknowledged the “considerable uncertainty” the Brexit process will have caused EU nationals living in Wales. He accused the UK Government of ignoring evidence and ideas presented by the Welsh Government on the potential negative impacts of migration restrictions.
“The (UK) Government’s plans would have a real impact on both the private and the public sectors. Wales would be affected proportionally more than the UK as a whole, in terms of the number of people migrating for work, and there would be an estimated reduction to gross domestic product in Wales of between 1% and 1.5% over 10 years.”
– Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles
The Counsel General believes an overly restrictive migration policy will hit certain economic sectors, particularly social care and food processing. The UK Government’s proposal to let EU workers work for 12 months before having to leave wasn’t good enough and he called for the proposed annual salary threshold (for all migrants – EU and non-EU – to qualify for a UK visa) to be lowered to £20,000 (from £30,000).
Shadow Brexit Minister, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) said it was clear immigration was on many people’s minds when they voted in 2016. While the contribution of immigrants was praise-worthy, there was a clear case for the system to change, not to simply carry on as before as the Welsh Government want. Why should migrants from the EU and EEA get preferential treatment over non-EU and EEA migrants? He did, however, agree that the salary threshold was perhaps too high and welcomed a UK Government review.
Welcomed and valued
Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) said migrants would always be welcomed and valued in Wales. Whilst welcoming the Counsel General’s identification of the potential risks, she wondered why it wasn’t that being followed up with concrete actions?
“Having admitted that the UK Government has completely ignored Welsh Government concerns up until now….It simply isn’t good enough to say now that he hopes that they will listen in the future. He knows they won’t; I know they won’t; every sensible Member in this Chamber knows they won’t. The time has come to demand more powers for Wales, Minister, so that we can take action ourselves to protect the economy rather than make repeated requests that fall on deaf ears.”
– Delyth Jewell AM
Plaid Cymru’s policy is for educational visas not to count towards any immigration quotas and called for powers over visas for academics and students to be devolved, alongside general powers over immigration. In response to that, the Counsel General said that the Welsh Government were working alongside the Scottish Government on shared interests to ensure their views are taken on board at UK level.
Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) was also aggrieved by what he described as the UK Government’s “tin ear”; no suggestions have been taken on board despite the Welsh Government’s evidence-based positions. The response requires better inter-government arrangements and he asked the Counsel General for an update on that.
The Counsel General didn’t expect Wales to have a veto on anything, but all four nations in the UK should at least have a shared understanding of how policies should operate.