Queen’s Speech introduces Immigration Bill

Last week’s Queen’s Speech revealed that the existing freedom of movement pact that the UK enjoys with other European countries will almost certainly come to an end once the country leaves the Union.

During the Queen’s Speech, the government announced the introduction of an Immigration Bill as one of a number of Bills that they will implement post-Brexit.

It appears that the aim of this Bill will be to end the free movement of workers from the EU while still allowing the UK to attract “the brightest and the best” workers.

So far, there is very little detail beyond the ending of free movement of workers and making EU workers subject to national laws on immigration.

At the moment, the UK operates a points-based system for workers from outside the EU. This only allows workers to come to the UK to work in skilled, in-demand, roles. For these jobs, they must be paid a minimum salary of £25,000, although the minimum can be higher than this depending on the nature of the role.

It is not clear whether the government will extend this existing system to EU workers or not. The comment in the Queen’s Speech regarding attracting ‘the brightest and the best’ to the UK does indicate an intention to limit workers coming to the UK. Therefore, it is possible that going forward only skilled EU workers will be allowed to work in the UK.

However, Theresa May did tell EU leaders last week that the UK would introduce a new category of UK settled worker for those EU workers who have lived in the UK for five years – on the proviso that EU countries offer the same rights to UK citizens living there. Whether this is accepted by EU negotiators remains to be seen.

EU citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland can apply for a permanent residence card to prove that they have been living and working in the UK for five years. There is no indication of a cut-off date for those individuals who have not yet been in the UK for five years. Those individuals can apply for a residence card which will establish the date on which they arrived in the UK.

If the offer is not accepted by EU negotiators, EU citizens could apply for UK citizenship under the naturalisation rules once they have been eligible for a permanent residence card for at least a year and if they satisfy they can show they are:

– 18 or over;

– of good character;

– will continue to live in the UK; and

– have met the knowledge of English and Life in UK requirements.

One notable absence from the Queen’s Speech was any further reference to a net migration target. However, it is clear that a reduction is planned as the Immigration Bill sets out plans for the government to reduce the figure by cutting the number of migrant workers from the EU.

Article published 26th June 2017