Leading regional Brexit backers at odds over immigration cap plan

MEP David Campbell-Bannerman

MEP David Campbell-Bannerman - Credit: Submitted

Two of Norfolk's leading Brexit backers are at odds over Britain's immigration policy post-Brexit.

North-West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham dismissed a report from the Brexit pressure group Leave means Leave which called for a freeze to unskilled immigration for five years and a plan to bring in a minimum £35,000 salary for skilled workers.

But East of England Euro MP David Campbell-Bannerman, who is on the policy board of the group, which includes a number of Conservative MPs, said immigration numbers needed to be taken back to levels in the mid-1990s.

He said Britain should be employing its 'own people' and it would be a good thing to cut back on unskilled migration.

'We need to skill up our people. It is easy to dismiss them as lazy and not wanting to work. That is not true. There are lot of young people I have met who do want to work or seek work and we want to help them through this policy,' he said.

While he claimed the bureaucratic aspect of a visa system was exaggerated, he said 'a bit of paperwork is not a bad thing'.

He also suggested businesses may have to pay more, while budget payments no longer going to the European Union could be spent on skills training.

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'Business wants to carry on in business and will have to solve this problem and may have to pay people more.'

But Sir Henry Bellingham, who warned Britain could not act outside EU rules until it had left, insisted that there should be no cap on migrant workers - skilled or otherwise.

But he was in favour of a permit system.

'We should have a permit system so people can come here if they actually have a job to come to,' he said.

He said he would like to see a special arrangements for the agricultural sector, a new seasonal workers schemes, a special scheme for the care home sector and a special scheme for the hospitality sector, the restaurants pubs and hotels.

He said a permit system would 'make firms look first at the home market'.

'At the moment Eastern Europeans will turn up through an agency in the community and it is too easy to recruit them.

'In a way firms have had it very easy and it has had a detrimental impact on encouraging local youngsters. But I feel strongly businesses should be able to recruit who they want – the brightest and best, skilled, unskilled from around the world. It would not be in our interest to have caps, but we do need to have controls,' he added.

Sir Henry said he thought there would be a transition period following the two year timetable for Brexit negotiations after Article 50 was triggered.

'Trying to get this done in two years is not realistic, particularly from a trade perspective and the City, it would be unusual for us not to have a transition.

'It will disappoint people who will say 'why can't we leave now?' Some of my constituency who voted leave are saying 'why haven't we left Europe?' We need the best deal for Britain, that suits Europe and not in anyway harm our economy.'