On Sunday, a prominent Tory Brexiter of the Conservative Party made a surprising statement, urging the UK government to reopen the country’s borders to young workers from EU nations. This call comes in response to acute labor shortages following Brexit, which many believe contribute to rising inflation.
George Eustice, former Tory environment secretary under Ex Prime Minister Boris Johnson, candidly acknowledged the failures of the UK’s immigration policy since leaving the EU. Eustice proposed that the government, under the leadership of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, should initiate bilateral negotiations with EU countries immediately. The aim would be to offer young Europeans under the age of 35 two-year work visas to address the labor shortages in the UK.
Furthermore, the Tory Brexiter emphasized that these agreements should be reciprocal. In other words, the government should grant young UK citizens under 35 the opportunity to live and work for two years in EU member states with which such deals are struck. This approach, according to Eustice, would form an essential part of a much-needed “post-Brexit reconciliation” with our European neighbors.
Labor shortages and foster a Mutually beneficial relationship
Overall, the suggested revision of immigration policy seeks to address labor shortages and foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the UK and EU, particularly regarding young workers.
Eustice, who is leaving parliament at the next election, was highly critical of the Home Office, saying its skills-based immigration rules were failing the country on many levels.
Referring to the list of professions allowed to work here, he said: “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.
“We are allowing in people who are deemed skilled, such as lawyers, insolvency practitioners, museum officers, even disc jockeys, despite having 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.”
When asked if Brexit had caused labor shortages and resulting inflationary pressures, Eustice responded, “We need to stop seeing everything through the prism of Brexit.” This isn’t because of Brexit. But it is because of the failure of our post-Brexit immigration policy.”
His comments, which expose the deep splits within the Tory party over immigration, also show how determined some ardent Brexiters are becoming to shift Tory policy in order to try to limit the damage that leaving the EU is causing to the economy and labour market.
He blamed Theresa May when she was prime minister for failing to adopt bilateral visa schemes with EU countries after Brexit, which he said he had always supported.