Home Office paper sets out detailed proposals including measures to drive down number of low-skilled migrants from Europe
Britain will end the free movement of labour immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers under detailed proposals set out in a Home Office document leaked to the Guardian.
The 82-page paper, marked as extremely sensitive and dated August 2017, sets out for the first time how Britain intends to approach the politically charged issue of immigration, dramatically refocusing policy to put British workers first.
Put plainly, this means that, 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, the paper says.
It proposes measures to drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants offering them residency for a maximum of only two years, in a document likely to cheer hardliners in the Tory party. Those in high-skilled occupations will be granted permits to work for a longer period of three to five years.
The document also describes a phased introduction to a new immigration system that ends the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants and places tough new restrictions on their rights to bring in family members. Potentially, this could lead to thousands of families being split up.
Showing a passport will be mandatory for all EU nationals wanting to enter Britain and the paper proposes introducing a system of temporary biometric residence permits for all EU nationals coming into the UK after Brexit for more than a few months.
The determination to end free movement from day one and drive down lower-skilled EU migration, end the role of the European court of justice in family migration and extend elements of Theresa Mays hostile environment measures to long-term EU migrants without residence permits is likely to please hard Brexiters.
The Home Office paper, entitled the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the European Union, makes clear the proposals within it have yet to be endorsed by ministers, and are subject to negotiations with EU. But with the help of examples and flowcharts, the document sets out the direction of Home Office thinking in one of the most vexed subjects of the Brexit debate.
It is understood the document, which has been circulated around senior officials and ministers, has already provoked rows between cabinet ministers, who are trying to balance the demands of British businesses wanting to retain free movement, and the views of hardline Brexiters.
It is also likely to enrage many in Europe who will feel the UK is intending to treat EU nationals as second-class citizens and could invite retaliatory action by the 27-country bloc.
The Home Office EU immigration proposals also include:
Plans to restrict EU immigration by giving preference in the job market to resident workers. The government could also restrict EU nationals from seeking work, reduce the opportunities for workers to settle in the UK long-term, and limit the number of EU citizens able to come to the UK to do low-skilled work.
Proposals for a stepping stone temporary implementation period for at least two years after Brexit day. That would be followed by the introduction of the full immigration policy for EU nationals.
Plans to scrap EU rules on the rights of extended family members to reside in the UK. The document says there is virtually no limit on the distance of the relationship between the EU citizen and the family member in the current system. We propose to define family members as direct family members only, plus durable partners, it adds.
If an EU national living in the UK wants to bring their spouse from outside the EU here, he or she will have to earn a minimum of 18,600 a year, bringing EU nationals in line with the restriction already imposed on Britons.
No new border checks for EU nationals entering the country, although they will be required to travel on a passport not a national identity card. Instead all new EU arrivals will have deemed leave to enter Britain for an as yet unspecified period likely to between three and six months. After that, to stay longer, they will have to apply for a biometric residence permit, which may include a fingerprint.
In contrast to the free movement directive, residence permits will not be granted to jobseekers. A specific income threshold will be introduced for self-sufficient migrants.
Plans to introduce right to work checks. These would have to be carried out by employers, with criminal sanctions possible against companies and individuals if illegal working is discovered.
The document has a strong Britain first theme throughout. It states: 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.
The paper says that although long-term net migration from the EU has fallen over the last year to 133,000, it cannot be controlled because free movement gives EU citizens a right to reside in the UK regardless of the economic needs of the country.
The proposed package is designed to help cut the current annual flow of 250,000 EU nationals coming to live in Britain to the governments target of sustainable levels: net migration in the tens of thousands.
It is not a question of stopping EU migration But there will be a fundamental shift in our policy in that the government will take a view on the economic and social needs of the country as regards migration, rather than leaving this decision entirely to EU citizens and their employers, says the Home Office document.
Its proposals to end European court of justice protection for the rights of EU nationals to bring non-EU family members to Britain, to end the use of EU national identity cards instead of passports at the UK border, and the extension of Home Office registration powers are all potential major trouble spots in the Brexit negotiations.
Recent Home Office errors, including mistaken deportation letters sent to 100 EU citizens, have undermined confidence in its competence.
The Home Office says that the new EU immigration system will not necessarily include the same rules as currently applied to non-EU migration. In particular it says it is considering whether the existing system of sponsorship and a 1,000-a-head immigration skills charge will be applied to EU migration.