In a sign of a growing backlash against the government's controversial move to impose an annual cap on immigration from non-European Union countries, leading British businesses on Sunday warned that they might be forced to relocate jobs abroad, including India, as a rigid immigration limit could create shortages of skilled workers at home.
Many of the United Kingdom-based call centres and jobs in Information Technology and Finance could be moved to countries where it was easier and cheaper to find suitable staff, media reports said.
Green to visit India
The warning came as the British Immigration Minister Damian Green prepared to leave for India for a three-day visit to assure Ministers and businesses there that his government's immigration policy was “not about erecting barriers and closing doors, but delivering controlled immigration, with a faster and fairer system.”
“I look forward to using my visit to explain the changes under way in the U.K.'s immigration system and the reasons for them,” he said in a statement.
The Observer, citing a new survey, said that two-thirds of those who proposed to relocate jobs intended to move them to India and a third to China.
It quoted employers as saying that they wanted to have access to the best workers, irrespective of their origin, but it was not always possible to find local staff with requisite skills.
“Companies want to hire local people, but they often have trouble finding local residents with basic skills, drive and attitude needed to help the business succeed,” said an official of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Businesses also warned that the move risked damaging relations with countries, such as India and China at a time when Britain needed their markets and entrepreneurial skills.
They pointed to Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma's recent remarks that the proposed immigration curbs could “hurt” economic engagement between the two countries.
The issue has led to tensions between the Tories and their Lib Dem coalition partners who fought the elections on an anti-cap platform. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has been forced to assure critics that the cap would be implemented in a “flexible way” taking into account their concerns.