• International Workplace
  • 26 September 2017

Leaked post-Brexit immigration whitepaper sparks concern amongst employers

A Government whitepaper setting out how Britain intends to approach immigration post-Brexit has been leaked to The Guardian and, as a result, has attracted concern and criticism from employers and industry associations.

Detailed proposals set out in the Home Office document reveal that Britain will end the free movement of labour immediately after Brexit and, the newspaper states, introduce restrictions to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers and refocus policy to put British workers first.

The document states:

“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… UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour… ensuring preference in the job market is given to resident workers through an economic needs test that employers must complete to check whether suitable recruits can be found locally before hiring an EU citizen.”

The Guardian highlights several proposed measures within the whitepaper, which would make it more difficult for EU citizens to enter, work and remain in the UK, including:

  • Types of identification other than passports will no longer be sufficient when EU nationals come to the UK.
  • Anyone applying for a resident permit for the UK will have to provide certain documents – and their fingerprints.
  • The document suggests only those who have real expertise will be offered permits to stay in the UK for longer than three years: ‘We are minded to grant those in highly-skilled occupations and who have a contract of employment of more than 12 months a permit lasting three to five years. For those in other occupations, it may be up to two years.’
  • The Home Office envisages a much tougher regime which will restrict residency to ‘partners, minor children (under 18) and adult dependent relatives … as such “extended family members” other than durable partners will no longer qualify as family members under new UK law.’
  • The Government is proposing to ‘introduce a reasonable, but specific, income threshold for EU citizens to come to the UK as a self-sufficient person to ensure they have a sufficient income to be able to support themselves’.
  • The document says the UK intends ‘to strengthen our ability to refuse entry to EU citizens with a criminal record or whom we consider a threat to the UK’. The vetting process may be aided by an online screening procedure, the document says.

The document says the transformation of the UK’s immigration policy will take place in three stages: the initial phase, before Brexit, will involve the introduction of an immigration bill; it will be followed by an implementation period of ‘at least two years’; and a final phase, when tough new rules will be put in place.

Meanwhile, the British Institute of Facilities Management is calling on the Government to ensure that any future migration policy is evidence-based and meets the skills needs of the British economy and its industries.

Sofie Hooper, Senior Policy Advisor, said:

“Given the Government’s stated aim to develop an evidence-based policy on migration, it is surprising to see some of the restrictive proposals contained within the leaked draft document. This is especially surprising given that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is still gathering evidence and collecting feedback from stakeholders. In parts of the FM industry, up to 24% of the workforce are EU nationals, displaying a variety of skill levels.”