UK Eyeing Work Permits to Control EU Immigration

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd yesterday announced that work was underway on developing a work permits system to control migration from the European Union. This comes as a direct response to Brexit voters’ wishes for a tighter level of border control.

Despite formal negotiations on actually leaving the EU having not yet taken place, Britain is looking for ways to meet Leave voters’ demands who supported leaving the EU who were seeking lower immigration levels and a change in the open border with the bloc policy, all whilst meeting the needs of an economy in which some sectors depend heavily on foreign workers. Rudd when appearing on the BBC news said, ‘Work permits certainly have value’, saying her department was currently assessing immigration control systems to find plausible options but at this moment in time no decisions have been definitively made.

Currently, Britain has a visa system set up for non-EU nationals, however, this is under EU rules citizens from within the 28-country bloc are free to work and live in Britain.

The Home Secretary went on to say, ‘What we’re going to look at is how we can get the best for the economy, driving the numbers down but protecting the people who really add value to the economy’.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has already this month ruled out a points-based system to screen immigrants. A story that we picked up on last week, the news, as a result, has sparked fear among certain voters that her new government were going back on promises of the leave campaign and were being soft on key issues like immigration. In addition, May has said that the vote to leave the EU has shown that the UK people are wanting control over the movement of people from the bloc.

Rudd also backed the government’s long-standing target of bringing net annual migration to the UK to below 100,000. (This figure currently stands at 327,000). Migration controls are likely to form one of the most contentious negotiating points in talks with the EU on leaving the bloc, as Britain looks to tighten border controls without losing access the EU single market. Britain’s EU partners are sticky with the belief that it cannot enjoy full trade benefits unless it continues to provide free movement for EU nationals.

During the interview, Rudd also did not dismiss the possibility that Brits may have to pay for permission to travel to the EU, answering as a response to a report in the Guardian that cited draft EU visa legislation which may affect post-Brexit Britain. Rudd stated, ‘I don’t think it’s particularly desirable, but we don’t rule it out because we have to be allowed a free hand to get the best negotiations… it’s a reminder that this is a two-way negotiation.’

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