Britain backtracks over listing foreign workers

Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is seen speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in this photograph received via the BBC in London, Britain on Oct 9, 2016.
Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is seen speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in this photograph received via the BBC in London, Britain on Oct 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - The British government stepped back on Sunday (Oct 9) from a plan to make employers list their foreign workers as it talks tough on immigration following the Brexit vote, after a backlash among business leaders.

"We are not going to be asking companies to list or name or publish or identify their foreign workers," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC radio, saying the proposal had been "misinterpreted".

The idea of making employers publish a record of how many non-British citizens they hire was floated at the annual conference of Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party, which closed on Wednesday.

But it was swiftly and widely condemned as divisive and discriminatory, and the British Chambers of Commerce warned against making a global workforce a "badge of shame".

Education Secretary Justine Greening said the proposal was about "informing policy so that we understand which areas and parts of the country there are skills shortages".

"This is not data that will be published. There will be absolutely no naming and shaming," she told ITV television.

The EU referendum campaign was dominated by the issue of immigration and Mrs May has said that imposing controls on new arrivals will be a priority in negotiations over Brexit.

But EU leaders have also made clear that this will not be possible if Britain wants continued access to the European single market - which British businesses say is vital.

Lawmakers concerned about May's strategy have begun mobilising in a bid to force her to give parliament a vote on her opening position before formal exit talks begin with Brussels early next year.

The Conservatives only have a slim majority in the House of Commons, and some pro-European MPs in the party are reportedly in talks with former Labour leader Ed Miliband over an alliance that could defeat the government.

"The PM must get parliamentary consent for her Brexit negotiating position. No referendum mandate for hard Brexit nor a Commons majority," Mr Miliband said in a Twitter message.