LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Britain will announce changes to its immigration legal system on Monday after a record number of arrivals in 2022 put pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act before an election expected next year.
For more than a decade, high levels of legal immigration have dominated Britain’s political landscape, and Sunak promised to impose greater control after lawmakers in his Conservative Party criticized his record. He is also trying to send those who arrive illegally to live in Rwanda.
Sunak’s spokesman said he believed net migration should be reduced “significantly”.
This could lead to new disputes with employers who have struggled to recruit workers in recent years given Britain’s continuing tight labor market and the end of freedom of movement from the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc.
The spokesman said Home Affairs Secretary James Cleverly would present a statement to Parliament later on Monday outlining further measures to limit legal immigration and “stop abuse of the system”.
Data last month showed that annual net migration to the UK hit a record 745,000 last year and has remained at high levels since then.
Sunak’s spokesman said: “We believe the numbers are too high and must be reduced significantly and in the short term.”
“The evidence we have is that some of the people we encounter, especially dependents, are not actively contributing to the workforce in any substantive way.”
These comments are likely to worry business owners who have had to adapt to Brexit.
In October, the government’s independent immigration adviser recommended eliminating one of the main ways for companies to employ migrant workers in sectors with severe staff shortages.
In addition to the changes to the so-called Shortage Occupations List (SOL system), local media also reported that the government will raise the minimum wage for skilled foreign workers from its current level of £26,200 ($33,190).
A severe shortage of candidates to fill vacant positions in Britain remains a problem for many business chiefs, although there are signs that this is starting to ease in the face of rising interest rates.
Businesses are finding it a little easier to hire, but persistent skills shortages remain in some sectors, the Bank of England said last month.
($1 = 0.7894 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Alastair Smoot, additional reporting by William Schomberg) Edited by Andrew MacAskill and Sarah Young
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