Sunday

26th Jan 2020

Britain to fence off EU workers, draft says

  • The UK's proposals would significantly cut job opportunities for low-skilled EU workers (Photo: Wonderlane)

UK wants to restrict residency rights of low-skilled and highly skilled EU workers after Brexit, all-but wiping out freedom of movement a leaked paper shows.

The 83-page paper dated early August, which was leaked to The Guardian newspaper, introduces restrictions to drive down the numbers of low-skilled workers in the UK and to generally deter EU workers unless they were highly skilled.

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It offers low-skilled EU workers a maximum of two years' residency. High-skilled workers could obtain work permits for three to five years.

Some jobs could have caps placed on them under the new proposals, while other occupations may become out of reach for EU workers completely.

The new system outlined by the paper ends the right to settle, or live permanently in Britain for most EU workers.

The paper says "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".

Immigration was at the centre of the Brexit debate ahead of the referendum last year, and was a main driving force behind the vote to leave the EU, with Leave campaigners arguing that Britain needed to "take back control".

The British draft proposals also place tough restrictions on bringing in family members.

There would be a threshold of at least £18,600 (€ 20,300) income per year for EU citizens to be able to bring their spouse from outside the EU - a rule already in place for British citizens.

The draft also proposes to end the rule of the European Court of Justice on the rights of EU nationals to bring in family members from outside the EU.

The policy paper says there is "virtually no limit" on who could qualify for a family member under EU rules, and proposes that only direct family members should count, such as children and adult dependants.

EU citizens will be required to register after three to six months of arrival for a biometric residence permit.

Residence permits will not be granted to jobseekers, and an income-threshold will be introduced for "self-sufficient" migrant workers.

Employers will have to carry out "right to work" checks, and companies and individuals could be sanctioned if they hired an illegal worker.

British first

UK employers should first seek to hire British people, the paper proposes.

The draft still needs to be reviewed and endorsed by British ministers, and is "subject to negotiations" with the EU.

The policy paper says that long-term net migration from the EU has fallen over the last year to 133,000, but adds that Britain cannot control immigration because of the EU's free movement policy.

Ending free movement is a key priority for prime minister Theresa May's government, which is willing to give up easy access to the bloc's single market to obtain that goal.

Securing the rights of those EU citizens already living in the UK is one of the key priorities of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, as EU citizens seek a ringfenced deal that would protect their rights even if the EU and UK failed to agree on the terms of divorce.

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