The study, which includes an examination of the impact of EEA immigration on the UK economy, recommends a number of reforms to the immigration system in the event free movement of EEA nationals is not included in any trade deal which the UK negotiates with the EU.
Most of the MAC's recommendations centre around changes to the Tier 2 immigration categories, which are used for sponsoring skilled workers. General recommendations made by the MAC include the following:
In order to make up any shortfall of medium to high-skilled workers resulting from Brexit, the report recommends the following amendments to Tier 2:
Immigration lawyers have criticised the MAC's report for focusing too much on Tier 2, arguing that Tier 2 is overly bureaucratic and not sufficiently flexible to address the several distinct migration issues resulting from Brexit. The MAC is also criticised for failing to make any recommendations regarding self-employed workers.
A further criticism is the unwillingness of the MAC to recommend regional variations in minimum salary levels, despite the overwhelming evidence of the higher salaries available to workers in London and the South East. This rejection by the MAC seems even more peculiar given their recommendation that the government "pay more attention to managing the consequences of migration at a local level".
The MAC's report was published at the same time as a study by the Open University which found that 61% of employers have been experiencing skills shortages since 2017, with 48% of senior business leaders expecting Brexit to have a detrimental effect on talent pools. Clearly, businesses have concerns about the government's ability to make appropriate changes to the immigration system to minimise the impact of Brexit on the availability of suitably skilled workers.
Leaks from the Cabinet following publication of the MAC's report suggest that the Cabinet have agreed to adopt most of the MAC's recommendations in full. However, further leaks suggest that they are also considering sector-based immigration schemes to ensure the shortages in particular sectors are minimised, in spite of the MAC's explicit recommendations against such a move. The government's official position is expected before the end of 2018, with the publication of its White Paper on post-Brexit immigration.
The focus of the MAC's report on relaxing the rules surrounding Tier 2 sponsorship is positive news for employers. However, the government will need to ensure it has sufficient capacity to deal with the inevitable increase in applications that will result from such changes.