Reform plays down risk of small businesses going 'bust' over employer immigration tax plans

Reform UK events are usually light on policy but the party has been doing some brainstorming.

Its latest offer in the general election campaign is an employers' immigration tax.

Businesses who employ foreigners instead of British citizens will have to pay an additional premium on their national insurance contributions, taking the tax rate up from 13.8% to 20%.

The party believes this could raise £20bn for the exchequer.

However, there are exemptions.

It will not apply to health and social care, a major sector for migrant labour, which raises doubts about how much of a dent the policy would make to net migration figures.

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Small employers, with fewer than five staff, will also be exempt.

The party did not say what it would mean for those with settled status or workers on spousal or family visas.

When asked whether he was comfortable with the prospect of businesses going bust, Reform's honorary president Nigel Farage said: "Some might, but businesses generally innovate, businesses generally go bust if people don't buy their products.

"Yes, costs are a factor but it's all about innovation and change."

Mr Farage added that the aim of the policy was to "incentivise employers to take on British people currently not working".

"There's a lot more to come next week," he said.

He was nonplussed at the prospect that businesses might pass the costs on to consumers, risking higher inflation.

"What we're saying is there is a chronic crisis of worklessness, which we're trying to find a way through," Mr Farage said.

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Meanwhile, Mr Farage rowed back from comments he made on Wednesday night, in which he hinted he might be open to doing a deal with the Tories.

He had told The Sun that his party "might have a conversation" with the Tories but asked "what are they going to do for me?"

It came after he conceded that the election result was a foregone conclusion with a Labour victory almost certain.

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Mr Farage said he was instead looking to the future and that he wanted to shape the Conservative opposition in the UK.

When asked whether this meant a deal with the Tories was likely, Mr Farage said he was joking.

He said he was being "deeply sarcastic" in his interview with The Sun and that Reform had "absolutely no interest in doing anything at all".

"There is no deal with the Conservatives whatsoever," he said.

When asked whether that was true or whether he was rowing back because of tense conversations with the party and Richard Tice following his remarks, Mr Farage said "there's not a cigarette paper between us".