City minister says finance needs ‘frictionless’ immigration

City Minister John Glen pictured with Theresa May and Wiltshire chief constable Kier Pritchard at the scene of the Salisbury novichok attack which took place in Glen's constituency

The UK’s City minister wants finance firms to have a “frictionless means” of bringing in staff under a new post-Brexit immigration policy — and said the government needs to have an “honest conversation” with the British people about the need for it.

John Glen told those attending a panel on the UK’s plan for post-Brexit immigration at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that “sometimes the temptation” is to build a rapport with a “certain populist message”.

“We’ve got to challenge the assumption that it’s just a few wealthy investment bankers in the City of London. It’s not,” he said. “For those banks, insurance companies, asset managers and institutions supporting those industries, to function well they have a whole supply chain… of people who are paid far less [and]  who are working in processing centres up and down the country.”

He added: “We need a very honest conversation with people in this country about what the real economic need is [for a sensible post-Brexit immigration policy].”

The City minister’s comments were echoed by Nicky Morgan, the Conservative chair of the UK parliament’s influential Treasury Committee, who was on the same panel and called for the ruling Conservative party to work hard to re-establish its credentials as “champions of business”.

“Unfortunately our business-friendly reputation has taken a bit of a battering over the last few months for one obvious reason,” she said, referring to former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s “f*ck business” rebuttal of UK corporates’ concerns over Brexit.

“We can get back on that front foot,” she said.

Their pro-business pitch reiterates that made on Monday by UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, in his bid to regain the trust of City firms battered by months of Brexit uncertainty.

Hammond told conference delegates that the “Conservative Party is, and always will be, the party of business”: “We back business as the cornerstone of a successful economy. “That means we listen to business,” he said.

In a government statement sent last night, Theresa May said the UK would allow EU tourists and business travellers to be waved through immigration controls, but those looking to stay and work in the UK must apply for visas if they meet minimum salary thresholds “to ensure they are not competing for jobs that could otherwise be recruited in the UK”.

It remains unclear whether there will be a limit on numbers or restrictions in key sectors. But a white paper detailing how the new system will work is set to be published this autumn, according to the government’s statement.

Miles Celic, the chief executive of TheCityUK, a financial services lobby group representing 23 million workers across the UK, said it was critical that the finance sector continue to be able to access global talent after Brexit.

“[Immigration is] the number one issue for what is the most successful industry in the UK,” he said.