More proposals from the government on a post-Brexit migration system
24 October 2016
It is being reported in the press that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has setup a Cabinet sub-committee (referred to as the ‘Brexit Committee’), which is comprised of 11 secretaries of state and the Prime Minister. We understand that the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, submitted proposals to the Brexit Committee on migration policy post-Brexit. While this story has received a lot of attention, and gives the impression of rapid progress of immigration policy discussions across the government, there are still many questions for employers.
The proposals are reported to have included:
A new work permit system will be introduced to regulate skilled workers from the EEA/EU who will need to show that they have a job offer before entering the UK. This is similar to the current Tier 2 category of the Points-Based System (PBS) for non-EEA nationals. It is unclear at this stage whether there will be a separate visa categories for EEA and non-EEA nationals, and also, what the minimum skill level of the job offer will need to be.
Furthermore, questions remain unanswered as to what extent we will still be operating under a PBS or whether a new work permit system will be introduced. Previous reports suggested that the PBS would be scrapped but no further information on this has been provided.
The proposal is to allow EEA/EU tourists to continue coming to the UK without the need for a Tourist visa. No further information was provided on what restrictions tourists will be subject to such as the number of days they are permitted to stay in the UK as a tourist.
The Home Office is considering leaving EEA/EU students unrestricted in any future overhaul of the immigration system. However, we still need to understand whether the Home Office will impose restrictions on course level, English language ability at enrolment and, most importantly for employers, ability to work while studying.
Free movement of low/unskilled workers will be stopped completely, according to reports. The proposal is to bring back similar programmes to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme for specific sectors. The government has highlighted construction, agriculture, and manufacturing as high priority for special schemes to help address acute shortages of workers.
In other news...
The Prime Minister confirmed at the recent Conservative Party conference that Article 50 will be triggered at the end of March 2017. There has been a lot of debate about whether there should be a vote in parliament and the level scrutiny of exit proposals. Attendees at our last seminar in July will recall Keir Starmer (now the new Shadow Brexit Secretary), explained the process and the role of parliament in the negotiations. We now hope to discuss the implications of the Great Repeal Bill, another announcement by the Prime Minister, at our upcoming seminar in November.
You may be aware that Yvette Cooper has been elected the new Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Hilary Benn has also been elected as the new Chair of the new Exiting the European Union Select Committee. Both committees will have scrutiny powers over key government departments that will set both the strategic direction on immigration and the UK leaving the EU.
We are closely monitoring developments on immigration policy post-Brexit and it is still unclear if these proposals, as well as those outlined at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, will come to fruition at any point in the next 6 to 12 months. However, any proposals to regulate EEA/EU migration will have significant impact on the ability of business to recruit workers from Europe, so early planning around potential workforce pressures is important.