Business leaders and government clash over calls for immigration to boost growth

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Rishi Sunak is under pressure from business leaders to use immigration to fill gaps in the domestic workforce.

The Prime Minister will address the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday following an autumn statement that put the country on track for tax hikes and spending cuts in times recession and falling standard of living.

CBI chief executive Tony Danker said a more liberal approach to immigration was needed to help spur economic growth when public spending is tight.

CBI Director General Tony Danker (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He said: ‘The reason why this is so important is that we have literally over a million vacancies in this country, we have 600,000 people who are now sick long term, who will not come back not so soon on the job market.

“That’s why we need to get this list of occupations in short supply – the list of people we really miss who we’re not going to have in Britain anytime soon – and we need to get them to fill the gap. while we recalibrate the labor market in the medium term.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today he said: ‘I’m afraid it’s one of those levers that helps you grow, doesn’t cost money, but I recognize it’s a difficult political choice for conservative politicians.”

But Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said employers should look to ‘domestic labour’ rather than seek ‘lower-skilled labour’ overseas.

Council of Ministers

Home Secretary Robert Jenrick (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We want to reduce net migration. This is something that is, as you say, very important to the British people and we are on the side of the British people,” he told TalkTV.

He added: “If UK employers are looking for low-skilled labour, the first port of call should be domestic labour.

“It should be about training, upskilling Britons and bringing them into the labor market – because there are still five million Britons who are not economically active, including around half a million who have left the labor market at the time of the pandemic.

“These are the types of people we are most concerned about as a government. If they want or can get back into the workforce, we want to give them the skills to get back into it and UK employers should help us do that.

In his address to the Birmingham conference, CBI boss Mr Danker is also expected to flag his concerns over the unresolved row with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol as one of the main obstacles to growth.

“Boris Johnson has reached an agreement with the EU which allows us to continue to trade without tariffs or quotas with our largest trading partner. There are good things in this, currently locked in,” Mr Danker will say in his opening speech.

“But, we are still arguing over Northern Ireland protocol. Yet we argue over sovereignty. Go around the table, make the deal, unlock the trade and cooperation agreement. I say to Brexiteers, the best guarantor of Brexit is a growing economy.

“His biggest risk is the one who doesn’t.”

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