Tory Brexit immigration plan would cause “catastrophic economic consequences”, warns thinktank

The Conservative’s plan to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands would cause “catastrophic economic consequences”, a study by an employer-backed thinktank shows.

The Global Future analysis – which found that Britain will need net migration of 200,000 annually following Brexit – came after the Tories caused dismay with an election manifesto that reaffirmed a hard-line approach to leaving the EU.

The report highlights low productivity, an ageing population and labour shortages in areas such as health, engineering, construction, agriculture and hospitality as key factors in the need for migration levels of 200,000 people a year.

Describing the Tories migration policy as “outdated and backwards looking”, the report warns of “catastrophic consequences for the economy.”

“A migration figure in excess of 200,000 will be needed to avoid collapse of whole sectors, as well as to prevent the crisis in public services such as Social Care and the NHS getting worse,” the report states.

The findings were echoed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who said the Tories migration target would risk globally competing UK firms “being left in the starting blocks because of a blunt approach to immigration.”

Global Future chief executive, Gurnek Bains, warned that politicians who appear tough on immigration – which currently stands at 273,000 people annually – simply to win votes were doing the country a disservice.

He said: “It might help particular politicians win elections but voters and our national interests will be the losers…These politicians are not only selling voters short – they are selling our country short too.”

The Tory manifesto, launched yesterday, contains a host of other hard Brexit policy statements. These include Theresa May’s “no deal is better than a bad deal” mantra, a scenario the CBI have said would be like opening “Pandora’s Box” upon the economy.

As well as repeating the Prime Minister’s pledge to leave the single market, the manifesto makes clear that the UK would also leave the customs union, something even Chancellor Philip Hammond has argued against.

In March, MPs were warned by HMRC that confidence in a new system to deal with an estimated five fold increase in border checks – from 60m to 300m – after the UK’s exit from the single market and customs union, had collapsed. The shipping industry said the implementation of such checks would a be a “catastrophe” for British ports.

The Tory manifesto also aggressively states that “the days of Britain making vast annual contributions to the European Union will end”. The policy anticipates future rows over cash, including over how much the UK will pay to settle its EU divorce bill; a subject which may derail the negotiations and leave Britain trading under damaging World Trade Organisation tariffs.

Unite assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, said: “People may have voted to leave the EU but they didn’t vote to be poorer or to lose their jobs and have their living standards attacked. Unfortunately that’s exactly what Theresa May will do by pursuing a hard Brexit and hoodwinking the public into believing she is able to secure a good deal.

“The British people have a choice: a Labour government committed to retaining a working relationship with the EU, remaining in the single market and customs union; getting commitments to investment and protecting employment rights – and improving the lives of ordinary people.

“The Conservative government is in the hands of right-wing Brextremists – set on damaging trade, severing foreign ties and turning Britain into a deregulated tax-haven.”