Leaked document shows plan to curb EU migrants

6 September 2017

A leaked draft document has outlined plans for ending freedom of movement immediately after Brexit.

The Home Office document, which was leaked to the Guardian newspaper, sets out plans to give a preference for UK workers in the job market, introduce temporary work permits for skilled and unskilled workers and create restrictions on migrants bringing families or spouses from the EU. 

The document said: “To be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the immigrants themselves but also make existing residents better off.

“We are clear that, wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour. It is not more important than ever that we have the right skills domestically to build a strong and competitive economy.”

A spokesman for the Home Office told SM: “We don’t comment on leaked draft documents. We’ll be setting out our new immigration system in the autumn.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Michael Fallon, secretary of state for defence, said: “Let’s be very clear, the public voted to leave the European Union, that means freedom of movement has to end. The automatic right of anybody in the European Union simply to come to Britain, that comes to an end…

“We will still welcome people with the right skills, we will welcome people to come to this country but we’ll have to set out the terms on which they can come.”

The draft document said freedom of movement for newly arrived EU migrants would end as soon as the UK leaves the EU. There would be an interim period where temporary permits of up to two years would be issued to unskilled workers, while skilled workers could be given permits for three to five-years.

By the end of these two years, the UK would have fully introduced its new migration policy. 

The document proposes under the new rules newly-arrived EU migrants would have six months before they needed to register for a biometric residence permit, and that permits would not be given to job seekers. There could also be caps on the number of low-skilled workers and for professions that are deemed not to be short of domestic workers.

New restrictions could also be introduced for families and spouses. EU migrants wishing to bring a spouse the UK would have to earn at least £18,600 – in line with the current threshold for non-EU migrants – and only immediate dependents would be allowed to follow.

In response to the leak, Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, called on the government to commit to ensuring the UK agricultural sector had sufficient permanent and seasonal workers post Brexit.

“An abrupt reduction in the number of EU workers able to work in the UK after we leave the EU would cause massive disruption to the entire food supply chain. A solution for the whole industry is needed to ensure the sector has access to the skills and labour it needs,” she said.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills at the Institute of Directors, said: “This is obviously not an approach that business leaders, especially of small-and medium-sized firms, will want to see… The UK needs an immigration system which provides control while also enabling employers to access the foreign workers they need at all levels.”

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