British business leaders need to stop lecturing people about the economic benefits of immigration and start putting forward positive proposals for the UK economy after Brexit, a new report has warned.
Business groups representing hospitality, construction, finance and many more have been vocal about impending skills shortages if the flow of migrants slows significantly after Brexit.
Too often, the key weapon in their armoury has been statistical evidence of these shortages, which are used in an attempt to convince people they are wrong to worry about immigration, the report said.
Mr Robinson, who also worked for several years in immigration policy at the Home Office, told The Independent that businesses should reassure people about the strength of the current work visa system.
Businesses that employ non-EU skilled workers have to keep close oversight of them, he said. This includes telling the Home Office if workers arrive in the country later than planned, where they live, if they move office, if they return home early and where they go on holiday. There are also heavy penalties for companies that breach the system.
Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future said the debate needed to outline how people can feel like they have more of a say in immigration policy.
This could be achieved with a migration equivalent of the annual Budget during which the Home Secretary would explain what happened last year, what is planned next year and what choices have to be made in light of the country’s skills needs, Mr Katwala suggested.
Most people are open to hearing concerns about the need for nurses, care workers, low-skilled and high-skilled labour, he said, but many feel business isn’t interested in having a conversation about how to manage immigration better so that it works for the economy and society.
He added: “It’s very much felt like a debate that says, if you think there’s a problem, we’ll explain why there isn’t a problem and then hopefully you’ll agree with us.
“That approach has failed and will now bring diminishing returns if it’s continued in future.”