Rishi Sunak calls for UK to welcome skilled migrants despite latest soaring figures

Rishi Sunak

The UK does not "have a monopoly on talent in this country" and needs to welcome skilled migrants to grow the economy, Rishi Sunak has said

Christopher Hope

By Christopher Hope

Published: 27/11/2023

- 15:51

Updated: 27/11/2023

- 15:56

Net migration hit a record 745,000 last year

The UK does not "have a monopoly on talent in this country" and needs to welcome skilled migrants to grow the economy, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Prime Minister made the remarks as a debate raged in the Conservative party about how to control soaring legal net migration after the number hit a record 745,000 last year.

Part of the debate centres on whether Sunak should lift the level of the pay needed to secure a visa to work in the UK from £26,000 to £40,000, as is advocated by former PM Boris Johnson and Suella Braverman, who Sunak sacked as Home Secretary last week.

In prepared remarks to the heads of some of the world's biggest companies at the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace, Sunak said: "We don’t have a monopoly on talent in this country and we recognise that nearly half of our most innovative companies have an immigrant founder.

WATCH: Rishi Sunak addresses the Global Investment Summit

"So if you’re an innovator, an entrepreneur, a researcher, you should know that the most competitive visa regime for highly skilled international talent is right here in the UK.

"Let me just give you one example. Our new high potential individual visa means that if you’re a young person who has graduated from a global top 50 university you can just come to the UK and stay here with your family for two years to just explore, work, study, invent.

"Nothing like that exists anywhere else in the world and it tells you everything about our pro-innovation, pro-growth, pro-business philosophy.

"So that’s the opportunity here in the UK and that’s why you should believe me when I say this is the best country in the world to invest and do business."

Aside from lifting the minimum wage threshold, GB News understands that James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, is also looking at other options including not allowing family members of other workers to settle here.

Separately Number 10 said its plan to process illegally arrived migrants in Rwanda was not a “silver bullet” in stopping Channel crossings amid Tory unease about Cleverly’s comments in a weekend interview that was not the “be all and end all”.

A spokesperson said: “We have made significant substantive progress in stopping the boats, with crossings down a third year-on-year.

"It is a crucial part of our approach to stopping the boats, but as we’ve always been clear, there is no one silver bullet.

“And that’s why we – alongside the continued work to secure the Rwanda migration partnership – are taking action, whether that’s on bilateral returns agreements, further co-operation with our French counterparts."

Downing Street declined to comment on the timeline of a new treaty with Rwanda and a law intended to set aside the Supreme Court’s ruling it was unlawful.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “It’s due to be published in the coming weeks.

“I think people understand that following the judgment, which was relatively recently, it’s right to ensure we have the strongest possible position because we want both the treaty and the Bill to have the best possible chance of success and that’s why we are focused on finalising these details.”

The official declined to comment on “speculation” about what the agreement will entail following reports Rwanda was refusing to sign a treaty that would include British officials’ involvement in its legal system.

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