According to a document leaked by the Guardian and prepared by the Home Office, the UK has prepared a "hardline" Brexit plan according to which Britain will end the free movement of labor immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions "to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers." The proposal seeks to drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants, as well as a phased-in introduction to a new immigration system ending the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants.
While the end of free labor mobility was largely expected, the 82-page paper - marked as extremely sensitive and dated August 2017 - provides previously unreleased clarity and sets out for the first time how Britain intends to approach the controversial issue of immigration, "refocusing policy to put British workers first."
As the document summarizes, “to be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but also make existing residents better off."
Specifically, the controversial draft proposes measures to drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants – offering them residency for a maximum of only two years, in a document likely to cheer hardliners in the Tory party. Those in “high-skilled occupations” will be granted permits to work for a longer period of three to five years. Additionally, showing a passport will be mandatory for all EU nationals wanting to enter Britain. The paper also proposes introducing a system of temporary biometric residence permits for all EU nationals coming into the UK after Brexit for more than a few months.
The Home Office paper, entitled the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the European Union, makes clear the proposals within it have yet to be endorsed by ministers, and are “subject to negotiations with EU”. But, as the Guardian writes, with the help of examples and flowcharts, the document sets out the direction of Home Office thinking in one of the most controversial subjects of the Brexit debate.
Plans to restrict EU immigration by giving “preference in the job market to resident workers”. The government could also restrict EU nationals from seeking work, reduce the opportunities for workers to settle in the UK long-term, and limit the number of EU citizens able to come to the UK to do low-skilled work.
Among the EU immigration proposals are:
- Proposals for a “stepping stone” temporary implementation period for “at least two years” after Brexit day. That would be followed by the introduction of the full immigration policy for EU nationals.
- Plans to scrap EU rules on the rights of extended family members to reside in the UK. The document says “there is virtually no limit on the distance of the relationship between the EU citizen and the family member” in the current system. “We propose to define family members as direct family members only, plus durable partners,” it adds.
- If an EU national living in the UK wants to bring their spouse from outside the EU here, he or she will have to earn a minimum of £18,600 a year, bringing EU nationals in line with the restriction already imposed on Britons.
- No new border checks for EU nationals entering the country, although they will be required to travel on a passport not a national identity card. Instead all new EU arrivals will have “deemed leave” to enter Britain for as yet unspecified period likely to between three and six months. After that, to stay longer, they will have to apply for a biometric residence permit, which may include a fingerprint.
- In contrast to the “free movement directive”, residence permits will not be granted to jobseekers. A specific “income threshold” will be introduced for “self-sufficient” migrants.
- Plans to introduce “right to work” checks. These would have to be carried out by employers, with criminal sanctions possible against companies and individuals if illegal working is discovered.
The draft's release comes at a tenuous time for the UK's Brexit negotiations, with recent soundbites from EU negotiators stating that "no progress" has been made on any of the key underlying issues. Since the proposals have yet to be endorsed by government ministers, they could merely be a trial balloon to gauge negotiation and market impact.
That said, it is unclear what the new document's impact on sterling will be: with the GBPUSD having surged above 1.300 today on the latest plunge in the dollar, cable appears to have caught a bid following the report's release on what some say is incremental clarity into Theresa May's Brexit negotiating position, although it remains to be seen if the proposals will be sufficient to appease the crowd during the October EU summit, during which a determination must be made if enough Brexit progress has been to proceed to the next stage.
Earlier today, Bloomberg reported that the EU's deputy Brexit negotiator told German lawmakers that she’s "skeptical" talks with the U.K. will be able to move on to trade in October. Sabine Weyand briefed a special session of the European Affairs Committee of the lower house, or Bundestag, in Berlin on Monday and told lawmakers that no movement had been made in the key areas under discussion, those who attended the hearing said.
Given the scant advance made so far, Weyand said there’s no indication that the fourth round of negotiations scheduled to begin on Sept. 18 will yield any more progress than the third, according to one of those present. As a result, she doesn’t currently see EU leaders agreeing when they next meet to turn to the U.K.’s relationship with the bloc after Brexit, both of those attending said.
Weyand, who is deputy to the chief European Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the Bundestag committee that she doesn’t see any progress being made before Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party conference at the beginning of October, according to one of those present. "In any case, the EU summit scheduled for Oct. 19-20 was never a binding date to agree to move on to the next phase of negotiations."
The full leaked document can be found here.