We must protect status of EU citizens in Wales - Jeremy Miles
Ahead of a statement on the National Assembly, Counsel General and Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles has reaffirmed his commitment to those EU citizens who have chosen to make Wales their home.
We have always been clear that we recognise the invaluable contribution that EU citizens make to our economy and society here in Wales, and that any new immigration policy should be built around that. Our message as a Government to EU citizens in Wales is ‘we value your contribution to Welsh life and you will always be welcome here.’
In Brexit and Fair Movement of People, the Welsh Government proposed a flexible but managed approach to migration, where people from Europe would be able to move to the UK if they had a prior job offer, or had the ability to find a job quickly. It argued that this approach to migration should be complemented by a rigorous enforcement of legislation to prevent the exploitation of workers and the undermining of wages and conditions, whilst supporting our economy.
I would like to have been able to say that the UK government listened to those calls, and the proposals that we put forward in our paper Brexit and Fair Movement of People, taking on board the evidence that was presented not just from Wales but across the UK.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
When the UK government published a White Paper in December last year, outlining its plans for immigration after we leave the EU, there had been no prior engagement with the Welsh Government, despite previous assurances that this would happen.
The plans in the white paper ignore the weight of evidence presented to the Migration Advisory Committee about the negative impact on the economy of a more restrictive approach to migration.
As I made clear last week, our position is now to campaign for a referendum and to remain within the EU. But if we are to leave, it is essential we persuade the UK government that we need a flexible, managed approach to immigration that is fair but does not do unnecessary damage to our prosperity.
The proposal to give Wales, like Scotland, a separate ‘Shortage Occupations List’ is not the answer if, as at present, occupations on the list are still subject to the same salary threshold.
We must have a fair migration policy in place, one which protects EU citizens who have made Wales their home and which ensures that our future labour market needs are met. Any salary threshold should be well below £30,000. We need to ensure that Wales is still seen as an attractive place to live and work, and that we are still a welcoming nation.
My officials are involved in a 12 month engagement programme with the Home Office, Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, where different aspects of the Immigration White Paper are being discussed every month. I will continue to persist in more engagement with the Home Office, at a ministerial level, and an official level, and I will continue to make sure that the best interests of Wales and of our people are fully represented.
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