Vince Cable: Post-Brexit Britain not too different

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Will forthcoming changes to immigration and trade policies actually be so drastic?

Britain after Brexit may not actually be that different in regards to immigration and trade, according to former business secretary Vince Cable.

Speaking at a Global Success Partnership briefing in London, Cable suggested that once all negotiations are finished the changes to the UK’s immigration and trade policies might not be drastic. “We could finish up with something not massively different to what we have now,” he said. “It could be that the whole process is a lot less dramatic than anybody thought.”

He suggested that EU workers in the UK will probably have their rights protected under a new agreement. “If we decide to recognise those rights exist then we need to find out what the process will be like,” he said. “Will it be simple, or will applicants have to fill out a 90-page form?”

Speaking at the same event, Laura Harrison, director of people and strategy for the CIPD, said that HR should continue focusing on the same areas. “We need to push on the same points,” she said. “Skills and training and development have been thrown into sharp relief in the context of Brexit, but these mattered before and are really not new.

“We need to be making the most of the skills we have already, and not expect something for nothing,” she added. “If employers don’t want an immigrant workforce they must be prepared to pay more. And if they want the skills of the future they need to invest in them. They can’t have something for nothing.”

Harrison said UK employers need to rethink their future investment plans. “It would be amazing if British PLC became leaders in the ‘pay it forward’ mentality,” she said. “However, nothing in the Brexit debates suggested there was an appetite for that.”

John Mills, founder and chairman at JML Group, was in favour of limiting the number of unskilled workers migrating to Britain. “It is no surprise people want to live in the UK,” he said. “Immigration doesn’t affect those with high-level qualifications but those with low skills. And when you have a practically inexhaustible supply of labour there is an enormous disincentive to invest in labour-saving technology.”

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