Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled a softening of his Government’s plans for an annual cap on immigration from outside the European Union saying that it would be implemented in a manner that Britain would still be able to bring in the “best talent’’ from around the world.
"Let me give you this assurance. As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world," he told a conference of the Confederation of British Industry.
Mr Cameron’s remarks followed a growing pressure from leading businesses and universities who argued that a rigid limit on immigration, set to be introduced next April, would prevent them from recruiting the best global talent and undermine their competitiveness.
Fears have also been expressed about its impact on Britain’s relations with emerging economic powers such as India and China with whom it is keen to develop strong ties. India has already warned that such a move could have an adverse effect on business relations.
In a rare intervention recently, eight British Nobel laureates said that an artificial cap would deprive Britain of international scientific talent and “isolate” it from the “increasingly globalised world of research”.
The Government itself is divided over the issue with its Liberal Democrat coalition partners opposed to a cap. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is leading a public campaign against it.
After Mr Cameron’s speech, Downing Street said details of how the planned cap would work would be announced in “due course’’.
"We all know business have been talking about this issue. That is precisely why we wanted to have this period of consultation – to get the policy right. We were always very clear that we would try to implement that cap in a way that does not impede businesses from attracting the best talent to the UK. The objective is to bring net immigration down to the levels seen in the past – so tens of thousands. But we have not said anything more detailed about precisely how this is going to operate. We will do so in due course," it said.