Theresa May’s plans for a crackdown on immigration after Brexit could cause UK companies to go bust and spark job losses across the country, the head of Britain’s biggest business lobby group has warned.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the measures aimed at restricting low-skilled immigration could have unintended consequences, and warned the prime minister against using “derogatory terms” about EU migrants working in Britain.
If greater controls were implemented overnight, she told The House magazine: “[The UK could see] businesses go under and we would lose jobs rather than create jobs for our population.”
Her comments come after May used a speech to the CBI last month to warn that, after Brexit, EU migrants would no longer be able to “jump the queue” to come to Britain.
Fairbairn said business leaders had real concerns about the rhetoric, adding that the government might have underestimated how big a shock it would be for the economy. “Some have equated it to the oil price shock of the 1970s,” she said.
Companies are reporting growing problems hiring staff, with fewer EU migrants coming to Britain since the Brexit vote. Net EU migration to the UK has fallen to the lowest level in six years.
According to the latest snapshot from the labour market by the accountancy firm KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, the overall availability of staff continued to decline in November.
The Midlands registered the steepest fall in permanent candidates available for work of four English regions monitored by its latest employment barometer, although there were also marked declines elsewhere across the country.
Unemployment has dropped to the lowest levels since the mid-1970s, handing more power to workers to demand greater pay increases.
The survey of 400 UK recruitment and employment consultants said pay for temporary workers rose at the fastest pace for more than a decade last month, driven by the skills shortage across the UK.
The snapshot came in the latest sign that pay growth has finally begun to emerge for workers after a “lost decade” for pay since the financial crisis. Real wages, however, which take account of inflation, are still to recover their pre-crisis peak.