LOW-skilled workers will be banned from entering Britain from January 1 2021, the UK Government announced today, as it seeks to shift the country towards a “high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”.

Employers were told that they “will need to adjust” to the new set-up that seeks to end their reliance on “cheap Labour from Europe”. But they will have just 10 months to do so and ensure their staff have a right to work in the UK.

The new “single global system” will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and will give “top priority” to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics.

A key pillar of Boris Johnson’s new points-based immigration policy will be that it will apply across the whole of the UK with no special measures for Scotland or any other part of the country.

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The Home Office made clear: “We will not introduce different arrangements for different parts of the UK.”

The plan ends the EU policy of free movement of people and there will be no route for low-skilled workers into the country.

A policy paper, released by the Home Office, points out there are around 170,000 non-EU citizens in lower-skilled occupations and “this supply will continue to be available,” it explained.

The paper also pointed to a pilot scheme for seasonal workers in the agricultural sector will be quadrupled to 10,000 places in time for this year’s harvest.

So far, more than 3.2 million applications to stay in the UK have been made by EU citizens under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will be open until June 2021.

The policy paper makes clear EU citizens will not require a visa to enter the UK when visiting for up to six months and the Common Travel Area with Ireland will continue as normal.

As expected, the salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer.

Described in the policy paper as a "simple, effective and flexible," the Government plan means people who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a work visa.

Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer and meeting a minimum salary threshold.

Other points will be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.

Announcing the policy during a visit to Imperial College in west London, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: "It is right that people should speak English before they come to our country, that they should have a sponsored route, whether it's through employment or a sponsored route through an academic institution."

Ms Patel described today’s publication of the Government’s immigration policy paper as an “historic moment for the whole country”.

She said: “We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.”

Douglas Ross, the Scotland Office Minister, added: “The new system will work for Scotland and the whole of the UK. It will support our renowned universities and world beating high-tech sector. It avoids putting up barriers to business by splitting our UK-wide system and it ensures our whole economy can continue to grow.”

However, opposition parties were highly critical.

Diane Abbott for Labour claimed it was not an Australian points-based system, as promoted by UK ministers, but a salary threshold system, which, she argued, would “need to have so many exemptions - for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector - it will be meaningless”.

The Shadow Home Secretary added: “Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels while the Tories’ hostile environment is in place. It needs to go.”

Scottish Government Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “The UK Government’s immigration proposals are an insult to Scotland - they completely disregard the needs of our employers, our public services and our communities.

“There is a clear need for a fundamentally different approach to migration policy to reflect Scotland’s distinct demographic and geographical needs. The UK Government promised a system that would deliver for all of the UK including Scotland yet these proposals do not reflect the clear evidence from employers, local authorities, universities and experts about their needs. Indeed there is not a single reference to Scotland in the document.

“Telling employers that they will just need to adjust will be deeply concerning to our agriculture sector; to our care sector; and to our transport sector. We need an evidence based approach to immigration policy which reflects the needs of our economy and has been developed through engagement with employers and communities.    

“The Scottish Government put forward a clear, workable proposal of devolving immigration powers by introducing a Scottish Visa, which would allow Scotland to attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for our communities and economy to flourish.

“Our proposals have widespread support across the business and third sector communities in Scotland, and it is time the UK Government listened to those voices, instead of ploughing ahead with their deeply damaging proposals which will devastate the Scottish economy and our future prosperity.”

Stuart McDonald for the SNP denounced the “one-size-fits-all” approach adopted by the Conservative Government, saying it would pose a “very real threat” to Scotland.

“Boris Johnson’s crackdown on so-called low-skilled migration will devastate sectors such as hospitality, social care, agriculture and scientific research; many key industries across Scotland will no longer have access to vital workers we desperately need.”

The Liberal Democrats accused the Government of basing its policy on “xenophobia, not the social and economic needs of our country”.

Christine Jardine, the party’s Home Affairs spokeswoman, said: “Too many businesses are already struggling to hire the workers they need. Now the Tories want to stop them recruiting all but the highest paid employees from abroad.”

The Edinburgh MP added: “Ten months is nowhere near enough time for either employers or the Home Office to get ready for these new rules, creating chaos and confusion.”

Adam Marshall for the British Chambers of Commerce said: “The speed and scale of these changes will require significant adjustment by businesses.

“Companies are already investing heavily in home-grown talent across the UK but critical labour shortages mean firms will still need access to overseas workers at all skill levels.

“The new points system must be able to respond quickly to changing market needs and the application process must be radically simplified.”

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Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary of the public services union Unison, declared: “These plans spell absolute disaster for the care sector.”

She pointed out companies and councils could not recruit enough staff from the UK so have to rely on care workers from elsewhere. “But even with these migrant employees, there’s still way too few care workers to meet demand.”

Ms McAnea said care work was low paid but highly skilled, so fell foul of the Government’s “arbitrary immigration threshold”.

She added: “Suddenly ending this desperately needed supply of labour will cause huge problems across the country. The Government simply has to think again.”