With the Labour and the Conservative party conferences a few weeks ago and the Prime Minister as wells as the Home Secretary offering strong indicators that they will be following the Migration Advisory Committee report (MAC), we are better equipped to understand the Government’s position. There is still plenty of uncertainty and the Brexit negotiations may offer huge concessions but as it stands I have indicated below what a post Brexit Immigration system may look like.
Theresa May and now the MAC report have affirmed that EU free movement will end. This has been the Prime Minister’s position throughout so it is likely post 2020 that there will be a system of immigration control and constrains for all EU citizens.
EU nationals have always been treated differently to non-EU nationals and this disparity has permitted EU Nationals to enjoy a relaxed Immigration system, which is cheap as Home Office fees are low and relatively simple to navigate. MAC has concluded and thus reinforced the idea of a level playing field first voiced in early 2018 that there is no economic justification for EU nationals to have preferential access to work in the UK. The Prime Minister has confirmed she intends to create one unified system for all migrants. This will mean that a French national will have to navigate the same Immigration rules as a national from India currently does.
This also follows the government’s currently position to encourage highly skilled migrants to come to the UK and this will be extended to include EU Nationals. At the Conservative party conference the Prime Minister talked about a new skilled based system that will allow EU Nationals to access the UK labour market, where they can demonstrate they are taking a highly skilled role. It is likely that EU Nationals will have to navigate the Tier 2 points based system. The system is far from simple and riddled with bureaucratic principles and a costly endeavour not only for the employee but employers also. Gone will be opportunity to secure permanent residence by paying a nominal fee of £65 and replaced with fees that travel into the thousands for both the employer and employee. The only up side to the changes to the Tier 2 system will mean that the annual quotas that have been causing huge problems for employers are to be scrapped as recommended by the MAC report.
The MAC report has also recommended that Tier 2 visas been broadened and the level of education, currently at NQF Level 6, which is equivalent to a degree should be reduced to NQF Level 3 which is equivalent to GCSE level. The MAC report has also recommended that the resident labour market test be scrapped.
The most glaring omission from the MAC report is the lack of provisions in place for low skilled workers and the Prime Minister again agrees with the MAC report that there are no benefits to the UK economy. I would imagine the agriculture; health care and construction sector would beg to differ with the MAC report and Prime Minister. The government may well add a low skilled worker visa to the current Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme, although not originally designed to accommodate low skilled migrants. There is an age limitation currently exercised in this category as anyone under the age of 31 can apply and work in the UK for two years. However this visa does not allow for eventual settlement. The government’s approach is that those who do not meet the requirements under Tier 2 would have an option under Tier 5. Similarly changes to the current requirements of Tier 5 visas including the requirement for maintenance in the sum of £1890 are probably going to have to be lower. This still leaves a void for seasonal workers who only come to work for certain times of the year and then return home.
There is still a lot not mentioned and we will have to see over the coming months how the proposal sits. The changes above will also have an impact on how we travel to European and there is talk of a USA style visa waiver system.
We must still bear in mind that this could all change if an agreement is reached and the Immigration White paper is shortly due to the published followed by the Immigration Bill in the New Year.