Workers coming to Britain from the European Union after Brexit will have to register their details on arrival, home secretary Amber Rudd has said. It will take years to phase in a new immigration system for EU citizens, however, and Ms Rudd said British business should have a major influence on the terms of that regime.
“We will ensure we continue to attract those who benefit us economically, socially and culturally. But, at the same time, our new immigration system will give us control of the volume of people coming here – giving the public confidence we are applying our own rules on who we want to come to the UK and helping us to bring down net migration to sustainable levels,” she said.
The home secretary was speaking after a day of confusion over the government’s plans for immigration, during which ministers appeared to contradict one another. Writing in the Financial Times on Thursday, Ms Rudd sought to reassure business that there would be no “cliff edge” on immigration after Brexit.
Later in the morning, however, immigration minister Brandon Lewis said that any implementation period would not amount to a continuation of free movement of people from the EU.
“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in spring of 2019 … It’s one of the core principles of the European Union,” he told the BBC.
Costs and benefits
Ms Rudd has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to study the “economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the UK economy”. The study will look at EU migrants’ impact on competitiveness, and consider options such as focusing migration on high-skilled jobs.
Opposition groups and business groups welcomed news of the report but criticised the fact that the committee will not report until September 2018, six months before Britain leaves the EU.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the House of Commons home affairs committee, said it was staggering that it had taken a year since the EU referendum to commission the MAC to make its assessment.
“The MAC has now lost 13 months in which they could have been working on assessing the EU migration issues for each sector and for the economy as a whole, and the impact of different policy changes. Delaying basic research like this, yet still promising it’s all going to be sorted out by March 2019 is completely irresponsible,” she said.
“The fact that the government has taken so long to ask these basic questions must either be incompetence or internal disagreement. But neither bode well for the design and implementation of any new system to replace it.”
Speaking during a visit to Australia, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he was unaware that the report had been commissioned, adding that immigration had been “fantastic for the energy and dynamism of the economy” but “that doesn’t mean that you can’t control it”.