EU Workers & Post-Brexit Immigration Policy

08 Sep 2017

On Tuesday The Guardian newspaper published what appears to be a leaked Home Office paper on the UK’s immigration policy after we leaves the EU. It’s only a draft document but it has the look and feel of something more substantial than a discussion paper. It seems a reasonable guide to current Home Office thinking and a significant nudge and wink on the way in which policy is developing.

The draft paper makes it clear that the rights of free movement currently enjoyed by EU citizens will end. That means there must be entirely new arrangements based on the less secure status conferred by a grant of permission. In that context the draft document repeats the notion of a two year grace period which emerged in June but refers to it as an implementation period and seems to imply a harder approach than that indicated by a period of grace. The implication is that we’re on a path to a much more UK-centric policy and the rules will begin to change immediately we leave the EU. Employers might reflect on these statements in the draft paper:

  • “…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.”
  • “We are clear that, wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour. It is now more important than ever that we have the right skills domestically to build a strong and competitive economy.”
  • “We will issue a residence permit giving temporary leave to remain in the UK. We have not yet decided on the length of the leave to be granted. We are minded to grant those in highly-skilled occupations and who have a contract of employment of more than 12 months a permit lasting three to five years. For those in other occupations, it may be up to two years.”
  • “…ensuring preference in the job market is given to resident workers through an economic needs test that employers must complete to check whether suitable recruits can be found locally before hiring an EU citizen.”
  • “…reducing opportunity for workers to settle long term in the UK and to bring their dependents especially at lower skill levels.”
  • “…limiting the number of EU citizens able to come to the UK to undertake low-skilled work, for example through a salary threshold, an assessment of the skill-level of the occupation and/or through a direct numerical cap on numbers. Restrictions could be combined with the option of a scheme for temporary or seasonal workers depending on the industry.”

The direction of policy is clear. It’s also worth noting that in general terms most Eurozone economies are now showing signs of sustained growth so the “push” factor in EU migration from which many UK employers have benefitted is reducing. Employers who’ve relied on EU workers will feel the pinch first but there’s no need to panic. This is the time for strategic planning and Simon, Kathryn and I will be happy to bring our perspectives to bear in seeking out solutions for your business.