UK-EU freedom of movement to end in March 2019

Freedom of movement will end as soon as Britain leaves the EU, the immigration minister has said, as the government prepares a survey on the benefits of migration from the bloc.

Brandon Lewis also confirmed that the government intended to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands – a promise the Conservatives have failed to keep since taking office in 2010 – though he refused to say it would be achieved within this parliament.“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019. I’ll be very clear about that,” Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

“Obviously, there’s a period of negotiation we’re going through with the European Union at the moment. But we’re very clear that free movement ends. It’s part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, that, by definition, ends,” Lewis said.His comments appear to run counter to recent reports that the government is willing to allow freedom of movement to continue during a transitional period lasting three or four years.

The remarks are likely to alarm businesses, which would have less than two years to prepare for an end to free movement of labour with the EU. However, it could be that while freedom of movement technically ends with Brexit, the arrangements are still replicated during an implementation phase.

In a sign this may be the case, Lewis reiterated the Conservatives’ commitment to reducing net immigration to a less than 100,000 people a year, but he refused to say it would be met by the end of the parliament, claiming that it was impossible to do so while freedom of movement remained.

 

UK must agree implementation period for EU migration curbs – Lords committee

The European Union and Britain offered few compromises at their first full round of Brexit talks which ended on Thursday, and the pound fell on worries that British ministers were prepared to walk away without a deal.

While negotiators laid out their disagreements in Brussels, Prime Minister Theresa May met company bosses at home, with one employers’ group saying her government needed to engage in “sustained and structured” discussions with business over Brexit and avoid an abrupt departure from the bloc. Separately, academics warned of “widespread, damaging and pervasive” costs if Britain failed to reach at least a transitional trade deal with the EU before its scheduled departure from the bloc less than two years from now. At the European Commission, the negotiators laid out their opening positions in four days of talks that showed some common ground. But they also confirmed differences over how to protect the future of expatriate citizens, while uncertainty persisted over a financial settlement and the future of the Irish border, which will become an external frontier for the EU in 2019.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there was “a fundamental divergence” on how to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and of Britons in the remaining 27 EU countries after Brexit. He said European courts should guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit. “Any reference to European rights imply their oversight by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” he told a joint news conference with British Brexit Secretary David Davis. Britain, however, says people voted in last year’s Brexit referendum to end shared EU sovereignty, and its judges should therefore have jurisdiction.

Davis said the meetings in Brussels had provided “a lot to be positive about”. But when asked if Britain would accept the principle of a net payment from London to Brussels – and not vice versa as some British ministers have suggested – he gave no direct answer. Barnier called on Britain to clarify at the next round of talks in August how it would maintain a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU.

Both sides have said they want to avoid reimposition of border controls between the republic and British-ruled Northern Ireland. However, so far neither has proposed a solution to an issue that remains sensitive almost two decades after a peace deal ended years of violence in the province.

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Wrong Brexit immigration policy could leave north-east industries without a workforce

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said he had grave concerns for the north-east’s fish processing, soft fruit and seasonal farming sectors, which rely heavily on EU nationals.

Lord Duncan said there needed to be more focus on how to allow EU nationals to continue to work in the north-east of Scotland after Brexit. He said: “The area I have most concern about is the EU nationals question, particularly on the fish processing side, where upwards of 90% of workers are EU nationals. These are challenging but very well-paying jobs but they are not attractive jobs and so they are filled with migrants in places like Peterhead.

“How do we create a system that allows EU migrants to continue to fill these processing jobs as well as those in farming and seasonal work?”

Lord Duncan said he did not think rural affairs minister Michael Gove’s preferred points-based system was workable. He said: “It needs to be a non points-based system.”

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Theresa May under pressure to drop migration target after warning over Brexit recruitment crisis.

Theresa May has come under new pressure to drop her target to reduce migration after a report warned that Brexit is already causing recruitment problems for UK companies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry, said the Government’s failure to outline a post-Brexit immigration policy was adding to uncertainty for both business and EU workers in the UK. REC’s survey of 607 employers found evidence that a growing number are taking on temporary workers to plug gaps caused by skill shortages. Some 87 per cent intend to maintain or increase their use of temporary staff in the next three months.

Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive, said: “Brexit is making the situation more challenging. In London for example, a third of people working in construction are from the EU and it’s difficult to see how firms will manage if their workforce aren’t encouraged to stay in the UK and continue to contribute to our economy.”

Mr Green added: “Decisions about the future immigration system are too important to be subject to political whim – we need policy to be built on sound evidence and data. Businesses need access to people to deliver growth, and that the current UK workforce alone cannot meet demand.” The REC’s “jobs outlook” report said the engineering, construction and education sectors could face unfilled vacancies in September or October.

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Brexit talks must not lose sight of immigration issue.

We hear masses about a Brexit “Bill” and about the future role of European Court of Justice. But what has happened to the issue of free movement? Wasn’t this supposed to be one of the Government’s fabled “red lines”?

While Theresa May  in her manifesto renewed David Cameron’s vow to bring net migration down to 100,000 a year we have scarcely heard a thing on the subject since the election. There has to be a suspicion that the Goverment is preparing for a climbdown, that it is opening the way for a deal in which Britain would remain partially in the single market with EU citizens free to travel to Britain, to look for work here and to claim benefits here much as before. In fact the Government began to change tone subtly on free movement as early as the first week in April even before Theresa May made her decision to call a general election.

Speaking on a trip to Jordan, about as far from the political fray of Westminster as she has been in recent months, the Prime Minister started to talk of an “implementation period” in which free movement could continue to operate for an unspecified time. There has been a similar shifting of position in the Government’s promise to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already resident in Britain. There is widespread agreement that people settled in Britain should have the right to stay in return for UK citizens resident abroad having the right to remain there.

But there is the issue of a cut-off date: since when should an EU citizen have had to be living in Britain to qualify for the automatic right to stay? At first it was suggested that it should be the date of the referendum: June 23 last year. But the date keeps slipping forward. It now could be any date between when Article 50 was triggered – in March this year – to the date on which Britain officially leaves the EU, expected to be March 2019.

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There’s going to be ‘chaos’ in the food industry after Brexit, report warns…

A report from food policy specialists has said that ministers need to establish a clear plan for how a new food system will operate. As it stands, the UK gets 31% of its food from the UK and the report’s authors have warned that provisions need to be put in place before Brexit occurs in 2019. The absence of a trade deal could push the price of imported food up by 22%.

Even a ‘soft’ Brexit – which would see the Uk remain in the single market or customs union, could badly impact the food and farming industries.Ahead of the departure deadline, there are thousands of pieces of legislation concerning food which require consideration, covering areas such as agriculture and fisheries.

Author Tim Lang, a professor from City University in London, accused the government of a ‘serious policy failing on an unprecedented scale’ for its handling of the situation. Mr Lang said: ‘The Government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made. ‘With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale. Anyone would think they want a drop into the World Trade Organisation abyss.’He added: ‘At least the UK entered World War Two with emergency plans. No-one has warned the public that a Food Brexit carries real risks of disruption to sources, prices and quality.’

These include a “clear integrated plan for UK food”, new legislation to ‘replace 4,000 pieces of EU law relating to food’ and subsidies to cover the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which the UK is expected to leave. The report, which is based on more than 200 sources, continues: ‘Prices, which are already rising and likely to rise more, will become more volatile, especially harming poor consumers.’

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Brexit could cost UK Treasury tens of billions in lost tax revenue.

The Treasury’s official watchdog has highlighted the significant risk posed by Brexit to the UK’s public finances in a new report.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its Fiscal Risk Report published on Thursday, said that a possible Brexit “divorce bill”, which some have suggested could be up to €100bn (£88bn), would only be a “one-off hit” to the Exchequer and that the far bigger risk related to the damage that leaving the EU could do to the UK’s long-term growth rate.

It said that if Brexit ended up reducing the UK’s annual trend productivity growth rate – the amount the UK produces per hour of labour – by just 0.1 per cent over 50 years, the economy would be 4.8 per cent smaller than otherwise. That would be equivalent to a cost in lost GDP of almost £100bn in today’s money – which would translate into a £36bn hit to tax revenues.

The OBR said there was “no meaningful basis” on which to predict the outcome of the Government’s Brexit talks in terms of the UK’s future trade arrangement, and so it has not assumed any long-term hit to the UK’s productivity growth rate in its current official forecast. However, many private sector forecasters have downgraded their potential productivity growth forecasts for the UK due to the decision to leave the EU, some by as much as 0.3 per cent.

Berenberg Bank has downgraded its base-case estimate for long-term annual UK potential productivity growth from 2.1 per cent to 1.8 per cent due to Brexit. Combining that with the OBR’s estimates implies a £100bn hit to tax revenues over the next half-century.

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Great Repeal Bill Human Rights Clause Sets Up Brexit Clash With Labour

 

The government has set itself on a collision course with opposition parties by insisting that it will not bring the EU charter of fundamental rights into domestic law on Brexit day.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has made the incorporation of the charter – which interprets EU human rights – one of the six tests he will apply when Labour decides whether to vote for the bill when it returns to parliament in the autumn. The Liberal Democrats have also made it a key demand.

The government believes the charter, which interprets existing EU rights rather than creating new ones, will no longer be necessary after “exit day”, when Britain leaves the EU. But refusing to incorporate it will set up one of a series of parliamentary struggles as Theresa May tries to get the legislation through parliament.

The Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who has said the passage of the bill in the autumn will be “hell” for the government, said: “The charter of fundamental rights is a cornerstone of what makes Britain what we are. I cannot understand what issue the government have with it. Is it the right to life, the ban on torture, protection against slavery, the right to a fair trial, respect for privacy, freedom of thought and religion, free speech and peaceful protest? These are not frustrations, these are integral to what it is to be British.”

The first and most historically significant line of the bill says simply: “The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.” But the legislation also brings EU law into domestic UK law, to create continuity after exit day. And it contains controversial new powers for ministers to tweak laws and create new institutions, where these are deemed necessary to make EU law work when it is transferred to UK law.

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European parliament threatens to veto UK’s ‘damp squib’ offer on citizens’ rights

The  European Parliament has threatened to veto Theresa May’s offer on EU citizens’ rights, branding it a “damp squib” which risks creating a “second class of citizenship.”

In a letter published by several European newspapers, MEPs claimed Mrs May’s proposals “cast a dark cloud of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans.” It came after Mrs May unveiled what she described as a “fair and generous offer” which would grant permanent residence to the three million EU citizens who came to Britain before Brexit.

“The British government proposes that – the day after Brexit – Europeans obtain the status of ‘third country nationals’. These nationals would get fewer rights in the UK than British citizens are offered throughout the EU,” MEPs wrote.

“Europeans will not only lose their right to vote in local elections, their future family members will also be subject to minimum income requirements, and it is unclear what the status of ‘post-Brexit’ babies will be.”

“We will never endorse the retroactive removal of acquired rights. The European Parliament will reserve its right to reject any agreement that treats EU citizens, regardless of their nationality, less favorably than they are at present.”

The European Parliament will have a vote on the final deal, which will include the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa. However, it has no involvement in the negotiating stage of the UK’s withdrawal, which is led by the European Commission and Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator for Brexit.

Though the letter is unlikely to sway the British government, MEPs hope it will pile further pressure on Mr Barnier to secure a deal which suits their demands.A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) dismissed the letter as an “unhelpful distortion” which contained “a number of inaccuracies.”

It bore the signatures of all parliamentary group leaders, including Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party Group.

British negotiators say that initial discussions over the citizens rights deal have been “positive”, although differences remain.Under Mrs May’s offer, EU citizens who arrived in Britain before a still-to-be-negotiated “cut-off date” would apply for settled status.

Those who have already lived in Britain for five years would be fast-tracked to settled status, with the remainder allowed to stay until they accrued five years.But the European Commission has said that this “does not go far enough,” demanding that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) continues to have jurisdiction over the rights of EU citizens in the UK, even after Brexit.The British government has rejected this, and instead offered to enshrine the rights of EU citizens who live in the UK under international law, making it impossible to renege on them in the future.Senior EU diplomats in the UK told The Daily Telegraph that their citizens had reacted negatively to the UK offer, particularly the lack of detail on registration procedures which the UK says will be “light touch”.

What does that mean? It’s a year now since Brexit and we still don’t have any real detail about how the system will work. And based on past  experience [of the UK immigration authorities] there is very little trust. We need to know what,when and how,” said one official. In the letter, the European Parliament also claimed the British offer would transform the UK into a “champion of red tape,” as “each family member, including children, have to make separate applications for “settled status”.

Full story can be read here.

Immigration amnesty for Grenfell fire residents

The Home Office said it would not conduct immigration checks on survivors and those coming forward with information. Labour called for a wider “amnesty”.The Home Office said its priority was to see residents “deal with the extremely difficult circumstances” so they could start to rebuild their lives.

In a written statement to Parliament, Home Office minister Brandon Lewis said: “Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the government is there for them at this terrible time and we will continue to provide the support they need to help them through the difficult days, weeks and months to come.”

He said extending the period of leave to remain for foreign residents affected by the fire would also allow them to assist the police and other authorities with their inquiries.