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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Vast majority of EU workers would be barred from UK under Migration Advisory Committee proposals, finds IPPR

New IPPR analysis finds that approximately three quarters of EU employees currently working in the UK would be ineligible for a work visa, under this week’s proposals from the Migration Advisory Committee.

The analysis finds that the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations to end low-skilled work from the EU and reform the high-skilled work route would have a major impact on the UK’s labour market. An estimated 75 per cent of EU full-time employees would not be eligible to work in the UK if the rules were applied to them.

The reforms would have a varied impact across different industries. The industries most likely to be negatively affected include hotels and restaurants (where an estimated 97 per cent of EU employees would be ineligible), transport and storage (95 per cent), and wholesale and retail (92 per cent). The least affected industries include financial services (where only 25 per cent of EU employees would be ineligible) and information and communications (30 per cent).

While EU citizens currently in the UK are expected to be protected under the terms of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement, the analysis suggests that the overall impact of the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposals would be dramatic for businesses recruiting migrants from the EU in future. Although some of their proposals would help to counteract an overly restrictive approach – by, for instance, making medium-skilled jobs eligible for work visas – the high salary thresholds and restraints on low-skilled work would in practice entail a sharp departure from the status quo.

Commenting on the analysis, IPPR Senior Research Fellow Marley Morris said:

“The new proposals from the Migration Advisory Committee would have a dramatic impact on the UK’s labour force and on employers. Our analysis suggests that a large majority of migrants from the EU employed in the UK would not meet the criteria proposed by the MAC.

“While of course EU citizens currently in the UK will be protected by the UK-EU withdrawal agreement, the MAC’s recommendations would have significant implications for future EU migrants. Overall, these proposals would see a major shake-up for our immigration system, with sectors such as hospitality, logistics and wholesale feeling the squeeze.

“IPPR would support a different approach to managing migration post-Brexit. Rather than simply cutting off low-skilled EU labour, the government should consider ways to incentivise employers to pay more and train more, by offering advantages in the visa system to responsible businesses.”



1. The findings are based on IPPR analysis of the Labour Force Survey (2016 Quarters 1-4) and on Appendix J of the Immigration Rules. We have estimated the implications of the Migration Advisory Committee's proposals by applying their recommended skills thresholds (occupations at RQF level 3 and above) and salary thresholds (£30,000 for experienced workers alongside appropriate occupational salary rates as detailed in the Immigration Rules) to EU migrants working in the UK. Our figures are based on the nationality of migrants rather than their country of birth, and we have included EEA/EFTA countries within our categorisation of ‘EU migrants’. The findings only apply to full-time employees; self-employed are excluded as salary data is unavailable for these workers. This analysis is modelled on our previous work on the labour market impacts of Brexit, of which more details can be found here:

2. The Migration Advisory Committee report can be found here:

3. IPPR’s work on migration can be found here:

4. IPPR is a registered charity and the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.