UK’s immigration pledge is good news for the City
The UK’s Brexit secretary’s admission on Monday night that the government will not cap immigration after the country leaves the European Union — and that immigration could rise or fall after Brexit — may well be the first bit of good news on London’s future as Europe’s main financial centre since the referendum last June.
David Davis told the BBC’s Question Time programme that the UK home secretary would have the final say on immigration policy, and added: “I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest.
“Which means that from time to time we will need more, from time to time we will need less. That is how it will no doubt work and that will be in everybody's interests — the migrants and the citizens of the UK.”
Davis specifically cited the National Health Service’s reliance on foreign workers, but the assurance that the needs of the economy will trump any calls for an arbitrary cap on immigration — despite anti-immigration sentiment being at the heart of much of the Brexit campaign — should also be welcomed in the City.
That’s evident by running a quick scan of adverts for jobs in the City, which throws up the same or a similar phrase every time: “Candidates need to have the right to work and to be located in UK.”
The NHS has already suffered from uncertainty over EU workers’ future rights in the UK. Official figures show that the number of nurses from elsewhere in Europe registering to work in the UK has dropped by 90% since the Brexit referendum.
Their worries are likely to be shared by any European workers considering a move to the UK — including bankers.
Davis’s comments on Monday night should alleviate a lot of those concerns. While there has been much shifting of position from those in the UK government tasked with delivering Brexit, the ‘phoney’ period has ended following the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday.
Whatever the government says now is more than likely to be its concrete position.
There are, of course, countless other reasons to fear for London’s pre-eminence in finance, from passporting rules to access to the single market.
But at least one potential concern — the possibility that the best and brightest from Europe will be subject to an immigration cap — appears to be off the table.