DAVOS, Switzerland. Jan 20 – Post-Brexit Britain will keep its doors open to skilled foreigners who attend the best universities, finance minister Philip Hammond said Friday as the country bids to regain control over immigration.
Hammond made his assurance at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, after he was confronted by an Oxford University professor about the potential fallout of Britain’s divorce from the EU on research and academia.
“The political debate in the UK around migration is not about computer scientists, academics and brain surgeons, it’s about the other end of the economic spectrum,” the chancellor of the exchequer said.
Pushing out the high skilled “would be exactly as you’ve suggested, shooting our knee-caps off before we’ve even started (negotiating Brexit) and we are not going to do that”.
Brexit will likely deprive British academics of EU research funds and make entry into Britain’s universities a more cumbersome process for Europeans.
But Hammond said the brightest and the best would always be welcome.
“What we have had to do is clamp down on people coming, graduating from frankly low-quality institutions and then taking non-graduate level jobs,” he said.
“Anyone with a degree from Oxford and who has a graduate-level job has the right to remain in the UK,” said Hammond, himself an Oxford graduate.
Hammond’s comments came a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke in Davos in an effort to persuade top executives and opinion-makers that Britain was still open for business despite the Brexit vote of last June.
On Tuesday, May said Britain would quit the EU’s common market but insisted in her Davos speech that the country would open up to the world as a whole.
Hammond told the panel: “There might be a few people in the UK whose vision is a closed economy where migrants don’t come in, but that is absolutely not the majority view.”