Ease of travel but restriction on work should be our key Brexit objectives for immigration

October 25, 2017

The narrow, albeit important, focus of the current Brexit negotiations on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU is obscuring the wider issue of future movement between the UK and the EU.

It is therefore time to consider the broader issue of migration post-Brexit, one that is based on ease of movement but with control of workers; that is the conclusion of a paper (Briefing Paper MW 421) issued by Migration Watch UK today.

Migration Watch UK have published an outline of what should be our post-Brexit regime for EU nationals with the broad aim being to preserve our historic and cultural links with Europe while also securing a significant reduction in lower skilled migration.

To that end, the immigration system should be as light touch as possible for the 35 million passengers who arrive each year from the EU, while introducing a work permit system that would sharply cut back the large numbers who come here for lower skilled work. The effect of this would be to reduce net migration by around 100,000 a year when fully in force.

It is likely that the EU would respond with a work permit requirement for British workers. We should expect that British workers might well be required to apply under the “Blue Card” system which the EU is further developing.

The scheme is outlined in an Annex to the attached paper. We do not believe the scheme will pose serious difficulties for British workers and companies.

Meanwhile, the UK government’s white paper, expected later this year, should provide reassurance for EU workers in the UK. Indeed, to date, there is little sign of an exodus of EU workers. The net inflow stands at nearly 130,000 a year.

In any case, were even zero net migration from the EU to be the eventual outcome, it would still mean that those leaving would be replaced, with the size of the UK’s EU workforce staying unchanged. It would simply be a matter of '"one in, one out", allowing British employers to retain the same number of workers.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

It would be hopeless to admit all EU citizens who had a job offer. What is the point of leaving the EU if we gain no control over immigration? The scheme we have outlined would not only control but also reduce immigration, probably by about 100,000 a year, as the public wants. It would also slow the current rapid population increase and, in the medium-term, help ease pressure on our infrastructure, hospitals, schools and housing.

While the negotiations are moving at a snail’s pace, the UK can and must remain open to the best talent from Europe. Visitors and students will of course be as welcome as they always have been.

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