Britain is considering charging employers 1,000 pounds ($1,200) a year for every skilled worker they recruit from the European Union after the U.K. leaves the bloc, the country's immigration minister said Wednesday.
Robert Goodwill told a House of Lords committee the charge is “something that's been suggested to us that could apply” to EU workers.
Britain has already approved such a levy for foreign workers from non-EU nations. It takes effect in April.
Currently, citizens of the 27 other EU member states have the right to live and work in Britain. But that freedom of movement is likely to end once Britain quits the bloc.
The government has set a goal of reducing net immigration to Britain below 100,000 people a year. It's currently more than 300,000 a year.
After mentioning the 1,000-pound charge, Goodwill said it was far from certain. EU exit talks have yet to begin and “we are not in a position to really speculate as to what the settlement will be, post-Brexit negotiations,” he said.
Business groups criticized the idea of a foreign-worker levy. Seamus Nevin, the head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said employers “simply cannot endure the double whammy of more restriction and then, if they do succeed in finding the right candidate, the prospect of an extra charge.”
Goodwill also said it's likely that agricultural workers will be allowed to come to Britain on short-term seasonal contracts. Many farmers rely on eastern European workers to pick fruits and vegetables, and are concerned they may face staff shortages when Britain leaves the EU.