Leave voters support skilled migration

New survey shows

Most Leave voters would support skilled migration from the EU remaining at the same level as now or even increasing, while half of Remain voters support reductions in low-skilled EU migration, according to new research released today by independent thinktank British Future.

Polling by ICM finds that 86 per cent of the public want high-skilled EU migration to stay at the same level as now or increase (48 per cent stay the same, 38 per cent increase) after Britain leaves the EU. Strikingly, 82 per cent of Leave voters would be happy for high-skilled migration to stay the same (51 per cent) or increase (31 per cent).

The public would, however, prefer reductions in low-skilled immigration: 64 per cent of the public, including 50 per cent of Remain voters, say they would like low-skilled EU immigration numbers reduced, with 36 per cent happy for them stay the same or increase (31 per cent stay the same, 5 per cent increase).

In its new report, Time to get it right: Finding consensus on Britain’s future immigration policy, British Future proposes a new post-Brexit immigration system which reflects this consensus, combining greater UK control over low-skilled migration with the needs of business and public services for immigration. Nearly two-thirds of the public (63 per cent) would support a new system which offers control of low-skilled immigration through an annual cap while allowing skilled migrants to come to the UK as before, including 71 per cent of Leave voters and 60 per cent who voted Remain, as well as 75 per cent of Conservatives and 57 per cent of Labour voters. Just 14 per cent of the public said they disagreed with the proposal.

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:

“There is public support, across political and referendum divides, for an immigration system that combines the UK control demanded in the referendum with openness to the migration that our economy will continue to need.

“A new post-Brexit immigration system that differentiates between skilled and low-skilled EU immigration sounds like common sense to most people. They can see that we need doctors, engineers and other professionals but they want more control over low-skilled immigration. Even there, the public knows we need people to pick the fruit and veg, build more houses and care for the elderly.

“Agreeing a transition deal with the EU would be sensible but it must not be an excuse to dodge the debate about our post-Brexit immigration system. We need to be having these debates now, involving the public in the choices we make and providing certainty for employers.  

“Brexit is a reset moment for immigration policy and a chance to rebuild public trust in the government’s ability to manage it. Engaging the public and finding consensus around a balanced immigration system could secure agreement across business, politics and the public.”

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