0305 GMT February 20, 2019
The immigration white paper was expected to be published today but the lack of agreement may mean further delay, theguardian.com reported.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark and Home Secretary of Sajid Javid want the proposed minimum salary of £30,000 for migrants to be reduced or for certain sectors to be exempt.
One cabinet minister said most of their colleagues backed reducing it to £21,000, though Prime Minister Theresa May favored a higher limit.
The proposal, which came from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), would mean that skilled migrants would have to earn at least £30,000 annually before being allowed in to the UK on five-year visas.
James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, hinted on Tuesday that the government could still decide to release the white paper before the end of the year.
“There is clear work that the Home Office has been doing,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“I’m not going to preempt or announce anything but there is active work that has been going on.”
The government is proposing a single immigration system that treats migrants from EU countries in the same way as those from non-EU countries. It will give highly skilled workers priority.
Much of the system is likely to hinge on future trade agreements, which could include more liberal visa requirements for workers from certain sectors and student exchange programs.
Javid has previously hinted he was minded to scrap the current 20,700 cap on highly skilled migrants.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the head of the Confederation of British Industry, has warned that businesses were extremely concerned about the salary threshold.
“This idea that there’s a £30,000-cap below which is described as low-skilled and not welcome in the UK is a damaging perspective for government to have for our economy,” she said.
“People earning less than £30,000 make a hugely valuable contribution to our economy and society, from lab technicians to people in the food industry.
“Many of our universities have staff on less than £30,000. So our offer to government is to work with us. We understand the challenge of building public trust, but we think there are much better answers.”
May has previously suggested that she hoped businesses would see the new system as an incentive to train British workers.
“We are aware, we are talking to business about their needs, that’s one of the things the MAC did as well,” she told reporters at the G20 summit in Argentina last month.
“What I hope to see and what I’m sure we will see is opportunities for young people in the UK, opportunities for training and skilling people from the UK. But we recognize businesses do want to bring people in from the rest of the world, particularly in highly skilled areas and our immigration system will reflect that.”
Reports on Tuesday in the Independent and BBC also suggested the Conservatives’ target of cutting net migration to the “tens of thousands” will not be mentioned in the white paper.
Brokenshire, a former immigration minister, would not confirm the pledge was in the document.
“We are committed to seeing net migration reduced to those sustainable numbers that we saw back before 1998 when it was less than 100,000,” he said.
“It’s the long-term intent and why we have focused on that number, because that is what is sustainable in the long term.”