UK Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed a post-Brexit clampdown on EU migrants, saying London will treat EU citizens the same as those from non-EU countries, while also seeking to reduce the influx of low-skilled migrants.
Speaking on Tuesday (2 October), May confirmed that under the new rules, high-skilled workers who want to live and work in Britain will be given priority while low skilled immigration will be curbed.
The system will not affect the three million citizens from EU countries already living and working in the UK.
The UK government’s plans are expected to see short-stay ‘fly-in, fly-out’ visitors people having their passports scanned at e-gates in airports, train stations and ports.
Meanwhile, security and criminal records checks would be carried out in advance of visits, similar to the prior authorisation system that the United States uses.
Applicants wanting to live and work in the UK would need to meet a minimum salary threshold to ensure they are not competing for jobs that could otherwise be recruited in the UK. Successful applicants for high skilled work would be able to bring their immediate family, but only if sponsored by their future employers.
The new system will not include a cap on student visas, which are a separate system to work visas and are granted on the basis of academic ability, the ability to speak English and the ability of students to support themselves financially.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to set out more details in a speech to the Conservative party’s annual conference later on Tuesday. The government’s White Paper and legislation on immigration rules after March 2019 is set to be published in the coming weeks.
The proposed curbs follow recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in September, which was tasked with assessing the impact of EU migration on the UK’s labour market and future immigration policies after it leaves the EU.
The MAC’s report prompted a backlash from business leaders, particularly those in the food and drink sector, and care workers, who warned that restricting low-skilled labour would leave them unable to fill vacancies.
Agriculture is likely to be the only sector which will have an exemption for low-skilled seasonal workers.