EU citizens should not be given preferential treatment in a post-Brexit immigration system, ministers have been told.
In its long-awaited report published on Tuesday morning, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it should be made easier for high-skilled workers to move to the UK.
The independent study, commissioned by the government, said the UK should continue to limit access to lower-skilled workers.
However the MAC said its recommendations were only for a migration system in isolation and did not take into account how offering beneficial terms to the EU could help the Brexit talks.
The CBI said immigration rules “should be part of trade negotiations” with the EU to help secure a good deal.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the report was “puzzling”.
“The MAC admit they have ignored the crucial relationship between immigration and trade, and explicitly made no recommendation on whether immigration should be part of the negotiations,” she said.
Theresa May has yet to reveal what Britain’s immigration system will look like after Brexit.
The prime minister hinted yesterday she does not want to give EU citizens different immigration rights than non-EU citizens.
The Times reported this morning Home Secretary Sajid Javid wants to impose limits on EU migration after Brexit.
But Chancellor Phillip Hammond has reportedly argued that people from the EU should continue to be given preferential treatment.
Alan Manning, the chair of the MAC, said there was “no ground” to discriminate in favour of EU migrants.
“EEA migration had not had the big costs that some people claim - but neither has it had the big benefits,” he said.
Manning added the recommendations were designed to “benefit the resident UK population”.
“High-skilled workers bring clear benefits to the UK economy and should be actively encouraged,” he said.
Despite concluding EU citizen should not get special treatment after Brexit, a study for the MAC concluded European migrants living in the UK contribute £2,300 more to the public purse each year than the average adult.
The Oxford Economics report said each UK‑born adult contributed £70 less than the average, and each non-European migrant contributed over £800 less than the average.
It said European migrants who arrived in 2016 will make a total net positive contribution of £26.9bn to the UK’s public finances over the entirety of their stay.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said Labour agreed with the MAC that “discrimination” against non-EU migrants had to end.
“Labour has said that our immigration policy needs to be based on our economic needs, while meeting our legal obligations and treating people fairly,” she said.
“This is not what we get from the Tories, the party of bargaining chips, Go Home vans, and the hostile environment.”
Today’s report came as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab issued a call for flexibility from the remaining 27 EU states in negotiations, on the eve of a crucial summit.
“We’ve made the compromises and we showed the ambition and we do need to see that matched on the EU side,” he said.
May will use Tuesday’s EU meeting in Salzburg, Austria, to make a direct pitch to fellow leaders to back her divisive Chequers proposals.
The EU confirmed today that an emergency summit could be held in November to finalise the Brexit negotiations.