Skilled workers from non-EU are now allowed to come in under points-based system

Some of Britain's biggest businesses have attacked the Conservative Party's plans to put an annual cap on foreign workers from outside the European Union saying that the move would affect their links with emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, which represents Britain's leading business groups, said the plans — a central plank of the Conservative's election campaign — appeared to have “no logic at all'' at a time when Britain was promoting London as the best city in the world to do business with.

“How we build our links with the Far East and the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] economies is absolutely fundamental to London's future,'' she told The Financial Times adding,

“Irritating the Chinese and Indians would not be clever.''

Echoing her fears, David Garner of KPMG said the move “could ultimately undermine our competitiveness.''

The Confederation of British Industries (CBI) also voiced its concern that severely limiting foreign skilled workers would come in the way of attracting the best talent from around the world.

One leading business figure accused the Tories of trying to “appease the populist voice'', a reference to right-wing tabloids and the racist British National Party which is fighting the May 6 general election on an anti-immigrant platform.

Conservative leader David Cameron has personally argued for an annual cap saying that the current levels are “too much'' though he has not specified the level of the proposed limit.

“We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands, ” he told the BBC recently.

The criticism from businesses was seen as a blow to Mr. Cameron's efforts to woo them by championing their causes — like promising to reverse the Labour's proposal to raise the National Insurance contribution if his party won the election.

Both Labour and Liberal Democrats are opposed to a cap. Prime Minister Gordon Brown told business leaders that a “blanket cap'' would hurt businesses.

Flexibility to recruit

“Where we as a country need to bring in highly skilled people we will continue to do so. And so you as businesses will have the flexibility to recruit the highly skilled people you need when you need them,'' he said.

Currently, highly-skilled workers from non-EU are allowed to come in under a points-based system introduced two years ago to control immigration.

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