The long-awaited study also concluded that the post-Brexit immigration system should make it easier for higher-skilled workers to come to the country, while continuing to limit access for those in lower-skilled roles.
Ministers asked experts to carry out an in-depth analysis on the patterns and impact of migration from the European Economic Area in July last year to help them draw up proposed new rules for after the “implementation” period ends in December 2020.
The Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) final report says that, if immigration is not part of the negotiations with the EU and the UK is deciding its future system in isolation, there should be no preference given to EU citizens.
It says: “A migrant’s impact depends on factors such as their skills, employment, age and use of public services, and not fundamentally on their nationality.”
The committee emphasised that it was not expressing a view on whether immigration should be part of the negotiations.
MAC chairman Professor Alan Manning said: “If – and this is not an MAC recommendation – immigration is not to be part of the negotiations with the EU and the UK is deciding its future migration system in isolation, we recommend moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens.”
This would mean ending free movement but that would not make the UK unusual, he said, citing Canada’s approach as an example.
Prof Manning added: “The problem with free movement is that it leaves migration to the UK solely up to migrants and UK residents have no control over the level and mix of migration.”
The review also suggested the future immigration policy should favour high-skilled workers as there is clear evidence they bring benefits to the UK’s public finances, innovation and productivity.
But in a finding that is likely to spark opposition from some sectors, the MAC concludes that there is no need for a specific migration route for low-skilled work, with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural scheme.
The report recommends that a cap on the number of Tier 2 skilled work visas should be scrapped and the scheme opened up to migrants in medium-skilled posts.
Professor Manning said: “Our recommendations to the Government on a future work immigration system post-implementation period are designed to benefit the resident UK population.”