The UK government announces plans to slash EU immigration after Brexit

LONDON – The UK government has unveiled plans to radically cut EU immigration after Brexit, with free movement for EU citizens set to end and to be replaced by a more restrictive policy which will bar lower-paid workers from coming to the UK.

The Home Office’s delayed immigration white paper, unveiled by Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday, reveals the full extent of the government’s plan to cut immigration from the EU.

It details plans to replace freedom of movement, the policy which allows UK and EU citizens live and work freely in each other’s territories without applying for a visa, with a new system which will see EU citizens subjected to the same immigration policy as non-EU citizens.

It also reveals:

  • Only highly skilled and skilled workers with academic qualifications will be able to apply for UK visas, with lower-skilled workers barred from applying.
  • The government also plans to introduce a salary cap, meaning those earning below £30,000 will be unable to apply.
  • All workers applying for a visa will need to be sponsored by a UK employer, a move which business groups have warned could increase bureaucracy significantly and make it more difficult to hire staff.
  • There will also be a temporary worker scheme to allow any citizen from a “low-risk country,” likely to include all EU member states, to live and work in the UK for up to 12 months. However, unlike citizens arriving under freedom of movement, people coming under this route will have no rights to access public funds, settle in the UK permanently, or bring family members and loved ones.
  • The new policy will allow the government to “reduce annual net migration to sustainable levels as set out in the Conservative Party manifesto.” May remains committed to cutting net migration below 100,000 as promised by David Cameron at the beginning of the decade.

Javid said the government was “delivering on the clear instruction to get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people.”

“It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business,” he told MPs.

A ‘sucker punch’ for firms across the country

The CBI, Britain’s largest business group, said the government’s proposals would be a “sucker punch” for businesses across the country and said they would damage public confidence as well as the British economy.

“All skill levels matter to the UK economy. A temporary 12-month route for overseas workers earning under £30,000 would encourage firms to hire a different person each year,” the group’s Deputy Direct-General Josh Hardie said.

“That needlessly increases costs and discourages migrants from integrating into local communicates – a key social concern. It’s not good for the public or business.”

“A new immigration system must command public confidence and support the economy. These proposals would achieve neither.

“The proposals outlined in the White Paper don’t meet the UK’s needs and would be a sucker punch for many firms right across the country.

“The Government’s own analysis suggests people and regions will be poorer as a result of them.”

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