Immigration continues to be a divisive issue at the heart of the Brexit debate. It will undoubtedly shape negotiations over the next two years, as well as Britain’s economy.
The Government’s manifesto summarises its current plans for controlled and reduced immigration. They believe that immigration which is too fast and too high makes it difficult to build a cohesive society and are convinced that it is the national interest to have an immigration policy that welcomes skilled workers and university students rather than unskilled migrants. As well as controlling migrant numbers from the EU, the Government intends to increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas and to toughen the visa requirements for students.
We know that the free movement of workers between the UK and Europe is likely to end yet we remain unclear on what the alternatives will be.
Businesses and workers need certainty on this point especially given that EU workers form such a large proportion of the current UK workforce. Uncertainty is leading to highly skilled candidates from the EU looking elsewhere with EU companies capitalising on this trend.
The Government is currently offering ‘settled status’ to EU citizens after Brexit which many see as an erosion of their current entitlements. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier is critical of the current proposals saying the UK needs to have more ambition, clarity and guarantees. His preferred position (which would undoubtedly be echoed by the many EU citizens in the UK) would be to see the retention of current rights.
With the UK and EU currently holding conflicting positions, negotiations will need to take place which bring these divergent views into alignment. The next round of negotiations between the UK and the EU will take place on 17 July 2017. Further rounds are planned for August, September and October.
During this uncertainly, it is vital the businesses prepare for the future and explore pragmatic solutions that deal with the immigration issues pertinent to their organisations. There is a great deal of misleading information circulating, leading to additional confusion. Whilst the final position is uncertain, there is much that businesses and individuals can do now to prepare for the future and mitigate any negative impacts.
Theresa May's offer to give EU citizens in the UK "settled status" after Brexit has been described as being "far short of what citizens are entitled to". MEPs, including European Parliament chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt say the proposal is a "damp squib". It offers Europeans in the UK fewer rights than Britons in the EU, they say in a joint letter to newspapers. Cabinet Office minister Damian Green said the "basic rights" of EU citizens living in the UK would be "preserved". He urged Mr Verhofstadt to "read our proposal", which the UK government insists would allow about three million EU citizens to stay on the same basis as now. EU migrants who had lived in the UK for five years would be granted access to health, education and other benefits.