Government migration controls could damage talent flows to UK, says Tory minister

Nick Boles, the Conservative business minister, has become the first among current Tory ministers to argue that government plans to bring down the number of European migrants could deter skilled workers from applying for jobs in the UK.

In an interview with Total Politics, Boles said: “There is a worry that the impression has gone out that you’re never going to get into the UK, and no doubt some of our competitor nations are using that. We would be in a much more healthy position if we were able to say, as I genuinely believe is the truth, that we truly welcome and want people from all over the world who have skills.”

Boles also admitted that while the UK remained a member of the EU, the country would never have control over immigration.

He said: “We may never be able to control it entirely, because it’s a fundamental principle of the EU. But it will be very hard for the British people to accept that, for as long as Britain remains the most dynamic economy in the EU, we’re going to be the net recipient of a very large amount of immigration every year. And it’s going to be hard to bring those people back on board.

“That’s a challenge both to the Labour party and to us almost equally. It’s something we have to respond to, not because of an economic argument. Politics isn’t all about economics.”

Boles has voiced the concerns at an awkward moment for David Cameron, who faces trouble on Europe from various quarters.

The prime minister is under pressure due to the collapse of a backbench bill that would confirm an EU referendum, and also since Denmark, seen as a key UK ally in the EU, said that Britain must cough up the £1.7bn bill it owes to the Union.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said: “I respect that the UK wants to discuss this among ministers, but there are rules that must be kept. Countries must follow the rules as they are.”

Cameron has told MPs that he will refuse to pay the bill in full.

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