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Frustration Grows Over Immigration Policy Uncertainty


Paul Carbert's Journal Column

In one of her first policy statements after being appointed Home Secretary, Priti Patel announced that free movement of EU nationals would end overnight on 31 October – but did not provide details of the system that would replace it.

The announcement was made in a newspaper column, and caused frustration for business that a significant shift in the direction of policy was not immediately followed by clear guidance.

Previous guidance issued by the Home Office stated that the current immigration rules would continue to apply until 31 December 2020. This may now only apply in the event that the Government agrees a deal with the EU.

A Home Office media factsheet published on 19 August only confirmed that plans for a new immigration system are being developed, and promised more details of these plans “shortly”. At the time of writing, no further details have been published.

Commentators have suggested that the Government does not have time to design and implement a new immigration system in the next two months, and that this will be an end to free movement in name only. Nevertheless, the announcement has caused some concern for our members, and the lack of certainty over future policy is unfortunately typical of the Government’s approach to Brexit.

To distinguish between European nationals who are resident here before the 31 October, and therefore entitled to claim settled status, the Government will need to introduce a registration system. EU nationals may be required to provide proof of residence, as well as proof of identity, when re-entering the country after 31 October – but communication from the Government on this point has been lacking.

Chamber members want to see a migration system that allows them to compete for the best global talent. This means that any minimum salary threshold for visas has to be proportionate with pay levels in the North East, and not based on average salaries in London and the South East.

Exporters rely on staff with European language skills to handle interactions with continental customers and suppliers, but these are in short supply in the UK. The Government’s intention is to introduce a points-based migration system to control the flow of skilled migrants, and this must take into account the demand for language skills.

We will continue to push for clarity on these issues, and invite Home Office officials to listen to our members’ requirements for a new immigration system.