The net migration target should be dropped and replaced by a system that ensures people coming to the UK make a positive contribution to the economy, the Confederation of Business Industry says.
Extra funds should be provided for schools and hospitals where demand is increased by immigration, the business group said, as it called for an “open and honest” debate about a new immigration system post-Brexit.
“Most credible economic studies show that immigration delivers net economic benefits for the UK,” the CBI said.
“Foreign workers put in more than they take out.”
It added: “Their taxes – which pay for schools, hospitals and roads – outweigh the benefits they receive. And, as the Office for Budget Responsibility notes, higher net migration reduces pressure on government debt.”
CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie called for “blunt targets” to be axed to enable companies to hire the staff they need.
“This is no longer a theoretical debate,” he said. “It’s about the future of our nation. Openness and control must not be presented as opposites.
“Scrapping blunt targets, ensuring all who come to the UK contribute and using the immigration dividend to support public services will add to public confidence.
“Many sectors are already facing shortages, from nurses to software engineers – so fast, sustainable, evidence-based action is needed.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher. Get it wrong, and the UK risks having too few people to run the NHS, pick fruit or deliver products to stores around the country.
“This would hurt us all – from the money in our pockets to our access to public services.
“The needs are more complex than only ensuring that the UK can attract the ‘brightest and best’.”
Mr Hardie called for greater migration to be part of future trade negotiations to allow the UK economy to grow.
“For Global Britain to succeed, the UK must send the right signals that show it remains open and welcoming to the world,” he said.
“That means putting migration on the table in trade talks to get us a better deal, first with the EU and then other countries, where it is clear existing visa restrictions inhibit trade and foreign direct investment.”