Consumer spending power is being aided by a stronger than expected rise in average wages, official figures suggest.
May rules out firms facing £1,000 levy on EU staff after Brexit
A £1,000 levy on businesses for hiring skilled workers from the European Union after Brexit is not being considered, the PM has insisted.
Downing Street spoke up to say the idea was "not on the agenda" after Home Office minister Robert Goodwill raised the prospect of such a scheme - with such a charge on recruitment from outside the bloc due to come into force later this year.
The suggestion it could be extended to EU workers was met with fury by the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.
He wrote on Twitter: "Imagine, just for a moment, what the UK headlines would be, if the EU proposed this for UK nationals? Shocking."
Freedom of movement rules are seen as likely to be a key stumbling block in Brexit negotiations.
The Government has said it will seek controls over the numbers of people coming into the country, but the shape of any post-Brexit immigration system has yet to be outlined.
Mr Goodwill spoke about the possible widening of the non-EU workers scheme when he appeared before the Lords EU Home Affairs sub-committee.
As it stands, the scheme will apply an annual charge of £1,000 for every skilled worker a firm employs from outside Europe, from April.
Mr Goodwill told peers: "That's something that currently applies to non-EU. That may be something that's been suggested to us that could apply to EU.
"But we are not in a position to really speculate as to what the settlement will be post-Brexit negotiations."
Mr Goodwill also indicated that a scheme to allow entry for some seasonal agricultural workers was being considered.
But the Prime Minister's spokesperson said the minister's comments were taken out of context and misinterpreted.
"There are a number of things some people may suggest could be the way forward, but at no point did he say it's on the agenda. It is not on the Government agenda."
Net long-term international migration from the EU and the rest of the world has been running at near record levels of more than a third of a million - significantly more than the Government's target of under 100,000.
A number of options for an immigration system have been suggested since the Brexit vote, including a work permits regime or a so-called "emergency brake" approach.
Mr Goodwill said a number of models were being explored, but that it would be "pointless" to speculate ahead of negotiations.
Liberal Democrat business spokesman Don Foster responded by saying a levy "would kill off British businesses", adding: "The Conservatives used to represent business interests, they have now sacrificed them on the altar of populism."
Business groups were also quick to dismiss the idea.
The British Hospitality Association warned it would increase costs for firms and lead to higher prices for consumers.
(c) Sky News 2017: May rules out firms facing £1,000 levy on EU staff after Brexit
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