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Brandon Lewis named new immigration minister in a minority government with uncertain policies

Date of Publication: 
13 June 2017

MP for Great Yarmouth appointed Minister of State for Immigration, now to be a Cabinet post for first time

Brandon Lewis named new immigration minister in a minority government with uncertain policies

13 June 2017

Following Thursday's general election, which saw the Conservatives lose their majority but emerge as the largest party, Brandon Lewis has been appointed as the Minister of State for Immigration in the new minority government.

Lewis, the Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth since 2010, was confirmed in the post on Sunday. He replaces Robert Goodwill.

Lewis previously served as the Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and is a qualified barrister.

The political editor of The Sun said on Twitter that the role of Immigration Minster is now to be a Cabinet post and Lewis will be the first in the job to attend Cabinet.

There were conflicting opinions in the media about how a weakened Prime Minister leading a Conservative government which failed to win an overall majority would now approach the subject of immigration.

Theresa May's Conservative manifesto had repeated the pledge to see net migration fall to the "tens of thousands," but the Independent reported yesterday that senior Conservatives including Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, have stressed the need to put the economy at the forefront of the coming Brexit negotiations, which has been taken to suggest disagreements with the focus on curbing immigration.

BBC News interviewed Philip Hammond yesterday, noting that he is a "luke-warm" backer of the migration pledge.

Hammond told the BBC: "What businesses want to do is bring skilled migrants in, move skilled migrants around their global businesses to do the jobs that are open in the UK. No businesses are unable to bring skilled workers into the UK to work in their companies because we have run out of space on a visa cap.

"At the moment we cannot control migration from the European Union into the UK. That situation will end. We will regain control of our borders and we will use that control to manage the migration system in the interests of our economy and our society."

While Hammond said that the Prime Minister has made it very clear that she believes net migration needs to be tens of thousands a year, he refused to say if he believed it too when asked. He answered: "The Prime Minister has been very clear that is the target that we are going for - tens of thousands."

Reuters UK reported on Twitter that the Prime Minister's spokesman said yesterday it is still government policy to cut annual net migration to the tens of thousands, while BBC News said that the "much strengthened" Hammond's reluctance to back the target has become much more significant. BBC News says "jobs and skills" to support the economy is to be a new mantra pushed by the Chancellor in the Brexit discussions.

The Times newspaper has reported today that the "tens of thousands" net migration pledge had been ditched as a condition of senior ministers backing Prime Minister Theresa May.

Meanwhile, news media yesterday reported that the Resolution Foundation think tank found that British employers are "totally unprepared" for a fall in migration once Britain leaves the EU.

The Resolution Foundation surveyed 500 businesses who employ EU nationals.

Sky News quoted the director of the Resolution Foundation as saying: "Many British firms are totally unprepared for [Brexit], particularly when it comes to migration. Ministers have compounded this uncertainty by choosing not to answer questions over what a post-Brexit immigration regime might be."

Stephen Clarke, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, told Reuters: "There's a stark gap between what businesses want and expect from our post-Brexit immigration system and what the government has pledged to deliver. Reconciling these differences, and giving businesses enough to plan for a new regime is absolutely vital."

City A.M. reported yesterday that 74 per cent of tech professionals in London believe that policies outlined in the Conservative manifesto, if implemented, would restrict access to talent in the UK tech sector and therefore threaten its continued success.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, told City A.M.: "With Brexit negotiations set to begin, we need a government that creates the right conditions for tech companies to grow, ensuring that they can access international talent to bridge the skills gap and provide world-leading insights and knowledge."