Absence of immigration policy creating vacuum, MPs warn

The government's continuing refusal to set out its post-Brexit immigration policy has created a "vacuum" that could enhance prejudice against the future movement of workers from the EU27, a committee of MPs has warned.

Image of UK passport office to illustrate article about Brexit-related immigration
A report on Tuesday from the House of Commons home affairs committee stressed that migration from the remaining members of the European Union would “remain important” because of the UK’s need for skilled workers and because of the economic, social and cultural bonds the UK shares with the bloc.

UK government immigration policy not expected before 2019

But the oft-delayed government proposals for a future immigration policy are now not expected to be outlined before the start of next year after ministers have considered recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee, due to be published in September.The committee warned that immigration policy now risked "being caught up in a rushed and highly politicised debate" in the run-up to a parliamentary vote on a withdrawal agreement with the EU. It accused the government of a "missed opportunity" to consult the public and build a consensus on future migration rules.Repeating its call for the government to abandon its aim of reducing annual net migration to below 100,000, the committee said a close economic partnership with the EU would be much harder to achieve without a reciprocal arrangement on immigration.The report said: "The government has not considered the range of possible immigration measures and safeguards that could allow the UK to participate in the single market while putting in place new immigration controls."Should the government change its red lines, there are a series of options which could provide a basis for greater control on migration within the single market."
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The report urged ministers to “explore” the possibility of immigration curbs that would be possible even with the UK retaining membership of the single market and said some curbs, including measures to prevent EU27 citizens from undercutting British wages, could be introduced immediately.Ministers should also consider a regional immigration system to give specific local areas “flexibility in their approach”, the report added.“We found there were a much wider range of possible precedents and options for immigration reform than people often talk about – including options that could be combined with participation in the single market – that we believe the government should be exploring further now,” said Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the committee."Immigration was one of the central issues during the referendum and it divided the country, but sadly there has been no attempt by the government to hold any kind of sensible debate on it or build any kind of consensus on immigration since."That is deeply disappointing and it has left a vacuum and it's really important that people don't exploit that again."

British businesses need to know what future immigration rules will be

Matthew Percival, head of employment at the Confederation of British Industry, commented: "The report is right to highlight that companies need to know what the future immigration rules will look like and have enough time to adjust."Firms are clear that the non-EU visa system is not a solution for EU workers. If Global Britain is to mean anything, we must remain open to the world."That means seeking the best deal possible with the EU, our largest trading partner, including a reciprocal arrangement for UK and EU workers that reflects existing economic, social and cultural ties."

The UK Home Office states "free movement will end" post-Brexit

Responding to the report, the Home Office said: "We are committed to controlled and sustainable migration and are clear that free movement will end."The British people want control of our borders, and after we leave the EU we will ensure that we can control immigration to Britain from Europe, putting in place a system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK."We are considering a range of options for the future immigration system that will ensure that we are in control of our borders and managing migration at a sustainable level in the national interest, while continuing to attract the brightest and best."Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

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