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.’

Full story can be read here

 

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.

Full story can be read here

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.

Full story can be read here

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.

Frequently Asked Questions for EEA Staff and their Family Members

The following FAQs are intended to answer your most immediate questions relating to the effect of the UK’s exit from the EU on EEA citizens, and we will endeavour to update these as and when the situation develops.

How much attention should I pay to these proposals?

It is important to remember that they are merely proposals put forward by the UK as part of its negotiations with the EU. Whilst the proposals are a useful indicator of the government’s current intentions, depending on the outcome of the negotiations, they could, by the time they are implemented, become either more generous or (less likely) more onerous for EEA nationals in the UK.

The proposals refer specifically to EU citizens, but what about those of us in the UK from other EEA (non-EU) member states and Switzerland?

The government has said that it will discuss similar arrangements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland on a reciprocal basis. Throughout these notes, we will use “EU citizens” when referring to the government’s proposals, but “EEA nationals” when discussing the current law and practice relating to the wider group of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.

What are the relevant points of the proposals?

  • EU citizens who arrived before a specific cut-off date (see below) and who have been continuously resident here for five years will be allowed to stay indefinitely by obtaining “settled status”.
  • EU citizens who arrived before the cut-off date but have not been here for five years will be allowed to obtain temporary permission to stay until they have, after which they will be able to apply for settled status.
  • Family dependants who are living with or who join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after five years in the UK.
  • There will be a grace period of up to two years after the UK leaves the EU to give EU citizens and their families sufficient time to make their applications.
  • All EU citizens and their families in the UK will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay before the end of the grace period, regardless of the date of their arrival and whether or not they already have permanent residence or documents to confirm that status.

What does “settled status” mean?

Settled status under UK law is expected to be the same as indefinite leave to remain (ILR) granted to non-EEA nationals after five years of continuous residence in the UK. ILR is similar but not identical to the permanent residence which is currently acquired by EEA nationals who have spent five continuous years in the UK in a qualifying status (i.e. as a worker, a self-employed or self-sufficient person or student). The main differences between permanent residence and ILR are:

  • Permanent residence provides an ongoing right to be joined in the UK by eligible non-EEA family members without meeting the rigorous financial criteria applied to non-EEA spouses and partners of UK citizens
  • Disputes relating to ILR are dealt with by the UK courts rather than the European Court of Justice
  • Qualifying EEA nationals are not currently required to obtain a document to confirm their permanent residence status, whilst non-EEA nationals must expressly apply for and be granted ILR

What will the cut-off date be?

The government has indicated that the cut-off date will be no earlier than the date on which Article 50 was triggered (29 March 2017) and no later than the date on which it is anticipated the UK will leave the EU (29 March 2019). In theory, this means that if you came to the UK after 29 March 2017, you may not be eligible for settled status. The actual cut-off date will be a key point in the negotiations between the EU and the UK. We think it is unlikely to be much before the UK’s actual exit date.

What will the qualifying criteria for settled status be?

The proposals refer to arriving in the UK before the cut-off date and being continuously resident for five years (and, in places, to lawful residence). It is possible the government intends to impose additional qualifying criteria, including proof that an EU citizen has been in a qualifying status (i.e. as a worker, a self-employed or self-sufficient person or student) during the five-year period (as is the case for EEA nationals to acquire permanent residence now). Thankfully, the government has indicated that it intends to remove the requirement that EU nationals who have been studying or economically selfsufficient in the UK (but not working) during any part of their five years in the UK must be able to show that they had comprehensive sickness insurance during those periods as a condition of their ability to obtain temporary permission or settled status.

What will the process be to obtain temporary residence or settled status?

We do not yet know what the process will involve or when it will be introduced. The proposals state that it will be “as streamlined and user-friendly as possible” using “existing government data, such as income records, to minimise the burden of documentary evidence required (e.g. to prove continuous residence)”. It is likely that the Home Office will require applicants to provide their biometric information during the process.

What will it cost to apply for a temporary residence permit or settled status?

The proposals state only that the government intends to set fees at a “reasonable level”. The current cost of an EEA residence document is 65 per person, but an ILR application (the closest equivalent to a settled status application) is 2,297 (without fast-tracking).

If I have already acquired permanent residence, will this mean that I am automatically granted settled status?

No. The proposals state that permanent residence status will no longer be valid after the UK leaves the EU (even if you have obtained a document to confirm that status). You would, therefore, still need to apply for settled status; although, the proposals also state that “for those who have already obtained a permanent residence document, we will seek to make sure that the application process for settled status is as streamlined as possible”, which is a positive indication that having a permanent residence document will be (as a minimum) helpful in obtaining settled status.

Can I still apply for a document confirming permanent residence now?

Yes, and you should not be put off by Home Office emails or website postings indicating that you should not apply. Many EEA nationals will find it useful and reassuring to have a formal record of their continuous residence in the UK in a qualifying status, given that the law in this respect has not yet changed and we do not know if, how or when it will do so. As stated above, having a document confirming permanent residence is also likely to facilitate the process of obtaining settled status.

The current online application process for permanent residence, https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/eea-pr, is now reasonably straightforward. The application fee is 65 per person; if you have not spent more than six months outside the UK in any 12-month period of the relevant five-year period, you are now not required to list all of your absences from the UK and it allows for an immediate passport return service (other than for dependants applying without a main applicant).

Having a document confirming permanent residence is also a prerequisite if you intend to apply to naturalise as a British citizen after six years in the UK.

Do I need to do anything now?

No, you do not need to do anything now unless you want to apply for a document confirming permanent residence. In the meantime, if you do not intend to apply for a permanent residence document, you may want to consider (merely as a precaution) locating and retaining formal original documentation to confirm your continuous residence in the UK, such as P60s or payslips. For non-working dependant family members, proof of residence would include formal original documentation indicating that they have resided with you at the same address in the UK, such as bank statements, tenancy agreements, council tax and utility bills, letters from GPs or schools, etc.

How will I know if I am eligible for a permanent residence document?

If you are an EEA national who has been in the UK for five continuous years in a qualifying status (e.g. as a student, worker or self-sufficient or self-employed person), then you will have acquired permanent residence. Under the current rules, any time spent in the UK as a self-sufficient person or as a student also requires you to have held comprehensive sickness insurance during that period (which, for practical purposes, generally means private medical insurance). If this applies to you, but you did not hold private medical insurance during the relevant period, then, given that the government intends to remove this requirement, you may want to seek further advice before applying and may be better off waiting for the new settled status process to be introduced rather than have your application for permanent residence formally rejected.

What does “continuous” mean for the purpose of qualifying for a permanent residence document?

It means being in the UK as a qualified person without a break of six months or more in any 12-month period. Absences from the UK or gaps in work of up to six months in any 12-month period will not usually prevent you from acquiring permanent residence (in certain circumstances, including maternity leave, longer gaps are also acceptable). Further advice should be sought where your work history or residence in the UK has material gaps.

Can my spouse/partner and children apply for a permanent residence document at the same time as I do?

They may qualify for a permanent residence document in their own right (as set out above) but will also have acquired permanent residence if they have been living in the UK as your family members for a continuous period of five years, even if they have not been here as qualified persons. In that case, they can apply for a permanent residence document at the same time as you. This will also be the case for your family members from a country outside the EEA, but they will have needed proof of their status in the form of a family permit or residence card from the beginning of their time in the UK. If your family members have not been in the UK for five years when you apply for a permanent residence document, they may still apply at the same time as you, but will be issued with a registration certificate (EEA nationals) or residence card (non-EEA nationals) instead of a permanent residence document.

How long does it take to obtain a permanent residence document?

Although the Home Office is strictly required to process EEA applications within six months, in light of the significant increase in applications the Home Office is currently dealing with, it could take longer. In some cases, particularly where the online process has been used, applications have been approved well before the six-month deadline.

Can I lose my permanent residence status once I have acquired it?

Under current law, having acquired permanent residence (whether or not you obtain a permanent residence document), you will only lose it if you leave the UK for more than two consecutive years. This will also apply to the settled status. In addition, of course, under the government’s new proposals, permanent residence will cease to be recognised as such once the UK leaves the EU, hence, the need to apply for settled status.

Can I apply for British citizenship?

Yes, if you have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years and are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, or for a period of six years if you are not the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen. You would first need to obtain a permanent residence document before applying for British citizenship. There are also additional qualifying criteria, including stricter UK absence rules than those for acquiring permanent residence and a requirement to pass a “Life in the UK” and English language test. EEA nationals with non-EEA dependant family members with them in the UK should seek further advice before applying for British citizenship, as this will affect the rights of their non-EEA dependant family members. You should also check first whether your home country will allow dual nationality some do, but others do not, and acquiring British citizenship could lead to you forfeiting your nationality of origin.

EU citizens must bring family over before Brexit or face tougher immigration

The Prime Minister has decided not to heed the call from the European Commission to allow EU citizens living in the UK the right to be joined by family members after Brexit, as part of a deal on citizens’ rights for the estimated 3.2 million EU nationals living in the UK. Instead, Mrs May said family dependents joining EU citizens living in the UK after Britain’s exit “will be subject to the same rules as those joining British citizens” who arrive after the cut-off point.

The Government also again rejected calls from the EU that the rights of citizens be upheld by the European Court of Justice, stating in its offer document today that the ECJ “will not have jurisdiction in the UK”, but would instead be guaranteed by UK law.

Following the PM’s statement, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted: “EU goal on #citizensrights: same level of protection as in EU law. More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.”

The differences in position – both on rights and who enforces them – underline how tough these negotiations could be in the coming weeks, as the two sides try to thrash out a deal that will affect one million Britons living in the EU and an estimated 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK. The scale of the administrative task facing the Government was also laid bare on Monday, as the Home Office said it had given itself a two-year window to process applications from EU citizens for “settled status” to protect their rights.

That could amount to over 4,000 applications a day.

“It’s most definitely a challenge for the Home Office,” said an official.

The Government said it would scale up the operations to process applications but admitted that it had not done a study on whether there will be a surge in migration before the cut-off point. The 15-page document will grant EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years “settled status” after Britain leaves, meaning they will be treated as if they are UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.

There will be a “cut-off date” which will be no earlier than the day Britain triggered Article 50 – 29 March 2017 – and no later than Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. However, the Government said EU citizens had a two year window after Brexit to apply for “settled status” in order to avoid a cliff-edge. The paper also says that EU citizens who arrive before the cut-off date, but with fewer than five years as a resident, will be given time to stay in order to obtain settled status.

Those who arrive after the cut-off point can stay in the UK for a temporary period but “should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status”.

Key points from the paper include:

  1. EU citizens applying for “settled status” will have to bring over dependants before the UK’s exit from the EU. After Brexit, dependents will be subject to the standard UK immigration rules.
  2. EU citizens with “settled status” will continue to have access to UK benefits on the same basis as a comparable UK national.
  3. EU citizens who do not have five years’ residence at the time of the UK’s exit but are on “pathway” to settled status will be able to access the same benefits as now – equal access for those in work and limited benefit access for unemployed.
  4. The Government will create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens resident here or before exit. This will be enforced by UK courts. The European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction in the UK.
  5. EU citizens will no longer be able to vote in local elections.
  6. EU nationals will be allowed to keep sending their UK benefits to other countries in the EU – such as child benefit – if they were already doing so before the “cut-off date”.
  7. The UK will continue to pay out state pension within the EU to qualifying EU nationals.
  8. The UK will protect healthcare arrangements for EU citizens who arrive in the UK before the “cut-off date” for UK nationals living in the EU.
  9. The UK will protect a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) so British citizens can continue to benefit from free temporary healthcare while in the EU.
  10. EU citizens who arrived before the “cut-off date” will continue to be eligible for student loans, and “home fee” status in line with persons with settled status in the UK.

Theresa May wants EU criminals out; following Brexit it may become more difficult to remove them

Last Monday’s announcement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit carried the headline grabbing statement that the Government will “apply rules to exclude those who are serious or persistent criminals and those whom we consider a threat to the UK”. The Daily Mail took the bait, publishing a story entitled “We’ll Kick Out EU Killers”. The reality is, however, that following Brexit it may be more difficult to remove serious criminals than it is under the law as it is now. The law does currently provide for the removal of EU citizens convicted of criminal offences in the UK. Where offences have been committed abroad, it is only through our membership of the EU that the UK has access to information about those offences and the ability to extradite accused or convicted persons.

There are two ways in which EU citizens accused of or convicted of criminal offences may be removed from the UK:

  1. EU citizens in the UK convicted of committing offences in the UK are in fact subject to deportation already: the UK Borders Act 2007 requires the Secretary of State to make a deportation order in respect of a foreign criminal unless exceptions apply. Under the Act, a ‘foreign criminal’ is defined as someone who is not a British citizen and who has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least 12 months, or who has committed a specified offence under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. This means that, on conviction, EU citizens can already be deported.
  2. EU citizens accused of or convicted of an offence in another country may be subject to extradition, under the EAW scheme. There is no requirement for such offences to be serious, in fact, as has been well-publicised, extradition can take place for relatively trivial offences, such as theft of a chocolate bar or cycling while drunk.

It is right to say that current legal provisions mean that it is more difficult to deport EU citizens exercising their treaty rights in the UK who have been convicted and served a sentence abroad than non-EU nationals. Nevertheless, as a result of information sharing across the EU, the prospects of determining whether an EU citizen has previous convictions from abroad are much better. The UK has access to information about previous convictions through its membership of the EU, and in particular through Europol, the Schengen Information System (II) and ECRIS. Without this access, it will in fact be more difficult for the UK to determine who is, or is not a “serious or persistent” criminal. If the UK is not permitted to remain part of the EAW scheme, extradition of those accused or convicted of offences abroad is likely to become more difficult than it is now. Further detail is awaited, however, in practical terms, if the UK does wish to exclude EU citizens who are “serious or persistent” criminals, UK negotiators may find that major concessions will have to be made in order to retain access to the key EU crime and security information databases and agencies.

EEA family members’ right to work during the renewal or application for residence documentation in the UK

The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations define a “family member” (a spouse, civil partner or a direct dependant relative of either EEA national or her/his spouse, a child or parent) and impose an obligation that “an EEA family permit issued under this regulation must be issued free of charge and as soon as possible” (Regulation 12(6) of the Regulations). Nevertheless, there are grey areas in the Regulations, which may affect the day-to-day lives and activities of family members residing in the UK with their EEA partners, children and parents.

Case Example (names have been altered)

Simon is a direct family member whose 5-year residence card expired in May 2016. He did not apply for his EEA (Permanent Residence) card (“EEA(PR)”) until July 2016 and was forced to leave his employment shortly after. The reason for that was that his employer was not convinced that Simon had a right to work until he obtained his permanent residence card. Upon contacting the Home Office, Simon received the following response: “The person in such a situation has a right to reside but not the right to work during the time in which he did not apply for his EEA(PR)“. It is clear that the Home Office referred to the period between the expiry of the residence card and the application date. And even if immigration solicitors advised employers differently, Simon has lost his employment.

According to Regulation 21 of the EEA Regulations that describes the procedure for applications for issue or renewal of family members’ residence card, the applicant must be in the UK. It does not, however, address explicitly applicants’ rights during the process. Therefore, the question remains: do applicants like Simon have a legal right to reside and work in the UK after the expiration of their residence card?

The answer is straightforward: Simon has the right to reside and work as long his EEA national sponsor remains a “qualified person” in the UK and the relationship is subsisting. Normally, the Certificate of Application (if the applicant had made an application either for a new residence card or for EEA(PR)) confirms these rights to stay and work in the UK and relays this information for the benefit of a current or prospective employer. It is important to bear in mind, however, that such a Certificate of Application is issued after the submission of biometrical data; this data within up to two months after the application submission. Hence a considerable delay in the confirmation of rights of the applicant in writing. And as Simon testifies, regardless of the immigration advice and the confirmation of his right to work, his employers stood by their decision to discontinue his employment.

To avoid the difficult situation Simon found himself in, it is advisable to apply in advance in order to receive the Certificate of Application and thus have a confirmation of the rights to stay and work in the UK.

The Queen’s Speech 2017 – what did it say about immigration?

The Government set out its objectives in the Queen’s Speech. This year’s speech is intended to cover a two year period, instead of the traditional 12 months, to allow MPs more time to debate Brexit legislation.

The 2017 Conservative Party manifesto had set out the following aims in relation to immigration:

  • reduce immigration to sustainable levels, which means annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands seen over the last two decades;
  • ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Government about how the visa system can become better aligned with modern industrial strategy. The Conservatives envisaged that the committee’s advice would allow them to set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration;
  • double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK;
  • secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU;
  • maintain the Common Travel Area and ensure that the movement of people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is as ‘frictionless’ as possible;
  • allow workers’ rights conferred on British citizens from the UK’s membership of the EU to remain;
  • increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas;
  • toughen the visa requirements for students. The Conservatives expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in the UK after their studies have concluded;
  • overseas students to remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within the scope of the Government’s policy to reduce annual net migration;
  • establish an immigration policy that allows a reduction and control of the number of people who come to Britain from the EU, while still allowing the Government to attract the skilled workers the economy needs;
  • increase the Immigration Health Surcharge to £600 for migrant workers and £450 for international students to cover their use of the NHS.

In contrast, the Queen’s Speech announced:

‘A bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses. This will be complemented by legislation to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit, establishing new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, and fisheries.’

The briefing notes which accompanied the Queen’s Speech, set out the following:

‘With the repeal of the European Communities Act, it will be necessary to establish new powers concerning the immigration status of EEA nationals. The bill will allow the Government to control the number of people coming here from Europe while still allowing us to attract the brightest and the best.

The bill will:

  • allow for the repeal of EU law on immigration, primarily free movement, that will otherwise be saved and converted into UK law by the Repeal Bill;
  • make the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to relevant UK law once the UK has left the EU.’

Commentary

It will be welcome news to businesses, which find it difficult to recruit from the domestic skills force, that most of the immigration pledges from the manifesto (including reducing annual net migration to the tens of thousands) did not make it into the Queen’s Speech. However, with the end of free movement as we know it seemingly inevitable, both businesses and relevant sectors must make sure that they prepare themselves for changes to the way that EU nationals are able to come and take up work in the UK. It remains to be seen whether any new system will bring EU nationals into a set of immigration rules which apply equally to both EU and non-EU nationals or whether separate systems will be put in place.

Finally, while the bill refers primarily to EU nationals and is silent on non-EU immigration, the Government apparently remains committed to the net migration target although it has not yet set out what measures will be put in place to achieve this.