Author: NICHOLAS CECIL
The Ipsos MORI survey for the Standard found adults believe — by two to one — that a cap on skilled workers should either be ditched or relaxed for medics from outside the European Union.
Almost 2,000 doctors and health professionals had visa applications rejected in the four months to March due to the annual cap of 20,700 on skilled workers from non-EU countries.
Today’s poll found that 37 per cent of Britons say there should be no cap on these doctors, while a further 27 per cent believe more visas should be issued. Just nine per cent want fewer visas for this group, and three per cent want no visas for them at all.
Nineteen per cent say the cap should remain at the present level.
In a sign of how out of step the Tories are with younger voters on immigration, three quarters of 18 to 34-year-olds said the cap should either be axed for doctors or more Tier 2 visas should be issued.
Home Office figures, obtained by the Campaign for Science and Engineering under freedom of information laws, show that more than 6,000 requests for Tier 2 visas were turned down in the four months to March.
They include 1,518 for doctor roles, 1,226 for IT and technology, 392 for engineering, 361 for other health professionals and 197 for teaching.
More nurses from outside the EU are understood to be obtaining visas through this scheme because it is classed as a profession suffering shortages amid the turmoil over Brexit. It means that there are fewer places available for other non-EU skilled workers desperately needed to fill vacancies in hospitals and businesses.
The Ipsos MORI survey also found that 49 per cent of adults want the cap to be either scrapped or eased for engineers, compared with 17 per cent who want it tightened. A similar picture emerged for teachers: 48 per cent compared to 16 per cent.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “Even though most people want overall levels of immigration reduced, Britons have for a long time held different attitudes when it comes to skilled workers, and at a time when public concern about the NHS is high this may be especially acute.” Mrs May has also faced criticism over her decision to stick with her goal of cutting net migration to below 100,000 a year. It is understood many Cabinet ministers believe it should be dropped altogether.
The poll also found falling trust in the Prime Minister on the issue of immigration. The proportion of Britons who do not have much trust or none at all in Mrs May was 62 per cent, far more than the 38 per cent in September 2016, just after the EU referendum that year and before the snap election last June.
This gives her a similar rating to Jeremy Corbyn, whose figure is 60 per cent, although more people do not trust him at all — 40 per cent, compared with 31 per cent for the Prime Minister.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK.
“However, it is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market.”