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Before the EU referendum decision was made, the Vote Leave Campaigners were pushing for an Australian-style points-based system, which we previously discussed on this blog. After several weeks of continuous political changes, it has never been revealed that the UK’s new immigration system may not actually be modelled on that system.
Now, the immigration minister, James Brokenshire – who has been tipped as the successor as home secretary now Theresa May has become the PM – has confirmed that the home office has started to work on detailing Britain’s possible options for the new immigration system that will control the flow of EU migration to the country. He was quoted in saying, ‘The prime minister has said that free movement cannot continue it its present form.’
Mr Brokenshire, when speaking to the home affairs select committee on Tuesday, said that talks in the last 3 weeks between the Irish Government had reiterated their shared wish to preserve their joint common travel area between the two country’s – an agreement which has been in place since 1922.
The immigration minister confirmed that the government won’t singly promise the future position of the estimated 2.9 million EU nationals who are currently lawfully residents in Britain, until the fate of the UK citizens who reside in the EU countries has been decided.
He did however, attempt to reassure those long-term EU citizens residents in the UK by conceding that it would be tough to remove people from the UK who’ve been settled for at least five years. Under EU law, citizens of other EU countries have a permanent right to live in the UK if they have been in Britain for five years. The minister said, ‘Having established that right, I think, as a matter of law, it would be virtually impossible … to then take that away from them.’ He went on to admit that a Home Office ‘international immigration group’ has already began to plan out the possibilities for a post-Brexit immigration system that is working with the Cabinet Office’s central co-ordination Brexit unit under Olly Martins.
The UK visas and immigration are additionally figuring out the operational impact of a number of probabilities, however the Home Office along with the rest of Whitehall undertook no contingency planning before the final EU referendum result.
Mr Brokenshire also spoke of the Ukip immigration policy that campaigners from the leave campaign so heavily supported, ‘the Home Office work is to look at the various different options… It is not necessarily that the points-based system is the right way to do it. There are other arrangements that could be considered as well.’ The system that is in place in Australia currently allows around 15% of work visas to be issued to migrants based on their skills. What has interestingly been brought to light is the immigration ministers choice to divide May’s government from the Brexiters leave pledges, ultimately revealing that they won’t be tied to previously made promises. He also said he couldn’t go into detail about the options prior to the negotiations in order to get the best possible outcome for the country.
He finished by announcing the prospect of free movement will continue between the UK & Ireland as it has since 1922, even though the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will now become a separate EU border. Mr Brokenshire, stated the this was an arrangement pre-dated the membership that Britain had with the EU and that it ‘would not impact on the security of the Schengen area’ (the passport-free zone between the other 26 EU states meant ministers were hopeful it could be preserved). As promising as this sounds, the EU commission have still not giving any promises or indications of its standpoint on the issue.