THOUGH the total number of EU migrants in Yorkshire’s largest cities and towns is a relatively small percentage of the overall workforce, their contribution is still a significant one as Brexit talks intensify.
Without them, Yorkshire would be poorer economically, socially and culturally. And, given this region’s well-documented skills shortages, the overhaul of Britian’s immigration policies is far more complex, and nuanced, than headline-grabbing politicians are prepared to pronounce.
For, while Ministers do seem to be showing a greater sense of urgency and purpose following the most Cabinet reshuffle, time is still not on their side – they have a matter of weeks to reach an accommodation with the EU while the current Parliamentary arithmetic does little to favour Theresa May’s government.
Yet, with a no deal Brexit looking an increasing likelihood, Ministers need to focus on the consequences of this and take heed of today’s report from the centre for Cities think-tank which warns of labour shortages – Britain is currently enjoying a period of record employment – unless EU migrants can continue to come here during a transition period.
Though the more ardent Eurosceptics will struggle to stomach this, Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter says it will help employers while the Government develops “an immigration system which is more flexible than current rules on migration from outside the European Economic Area” and which scraps the cap on the recruitment of high-skilled workers.
The regret is that this important debate – and its practical implications – should have taken place at the time of the EU referendum and not on the eve of Britian’s departure from the European Union at a time when political pragmatisim and co-operation is in short supply.