During a debate in West Yorkshire, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that UK immigration restrictions could make it increasingly challenging for employers to recruit skilled staff.

The CBI’s warning, which was echoed by business leaders, was announced during an EU debate in Leeds on 30th November.

A survey conducted by the CBI found that recruiting graduates with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) backgrounds is a problem for almost three quarters of businesses in Yorkshire.

But with the UK facing a skills shortage as a whole, it’s likely that immigration restrictions could create a much more widespread problem.

The findings revealed that 25 per cent of businesses surveyed were unable to recruit graduates in the above areas.

CBI’s regional director, Lucy Thornycroft, said: “It’s a huge issue now and it’s only going to get worse in the future.

“We’ve voiced our concerns over a potential cap that the Government is pursuing. The issue is that a UK immigration cap on skilled workers would prevent companies from being able to attract or access skilled workers that they require from across Europe. Construction is just one common example of an industry sector lacking the right skills.”

David Cameron plans to reduce the number of people entering Britain from the EU, stating that the current net migration figure of 300,000 people per year is ‘not sustainable’.

Not only could a change in UK immigration controls prevent skilled workers from entering the country, Thornycroft warns it could also have a negative impact on the number of international students coming to the UK. She argues: “Restricting them would be harmful to the education sector.”

The CBI’s director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, says it should be easier for firms to transfer staff from overseas offices to their UK sites, which, under current visa rules, can be a challenge.