A new system could see a ‘direct numerical cap’ on low paid workers or require European citizens to earn a certain amount
5 September, 2017
The UK’s post-Brexit immigration system will crack down on low-paid EU migrants – potentially capping their numbers – and strip European citizens of rights to bring family members to Britain, a leaked government paper suggests.
The Home Office documents set out how a new system would give the Government powers to refuse EU citizens entry and the right to work, and demand a minimum income level of anyone wishing to stay in the UK.
Employers could also be forced to recruit Britons to certain jobs, while access would be denied to immigrants wanting to work in some low-skilled sectors, the document suggests.
The plan sets out possible options for restricting access to low-skilled workers, including one option to implement a “direct numerical cap on numbers”.
While precise details are not given, the document suggests the Government is also minded to introduce an income threshold for some EU citizens before they are allowed to stay. It says the threshold would be “reasonable, but specific” enough to show the person is self-sufficient.
The document then goes on to suggest there should be tough new restrictions on the rights of EU migrants to bring families to the UK, ditching existing rules that give European citizens rights to bring relatives in without Home Office permission.
The section, likely to prove contentious, says: “We may wish to tighten up the definition of a family member from its current meaning under free movement law. We will no longer apply the EU definition of ‘extended’ family members, where there is virtually no limit on the distance of the relationship.”
It adds: “We propose to define family members as direct family members only (plus durable partners), aligning with the current system for non-EU nationals.”
The paper sets out the Home Office’s chosen approach to clamping down on large numbers of EU workers, making clear that the guiding “ambition” will be to lower net migration, which Theresa May has pledged to reduce to below 100,000.
The document says: “We may require EU nationals seeking to reside in the UK, for example to work, to obtain permission to do so before taking up employment or before entering the UK, we may require employers to recruit locally first, or we may restrict access to occupations that are not in shortage, particularly in non-highly skilled occupations.”
Tougher border controls would also see EU citizens have to show a passport when entering the UK, rather than the national identity cards they can currently enter with. People wishing to enter the UK during a proposed transition phase to the new system would also have to provide proof of citizenship either with a passport or “Home Office biometric immigration document”.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady attacked the proposals, saying: “It’s no wonder these back-of-an-envelope plans are causing rows between ministers. They would do nothing to tackle falling living standards and insecure jobs.”
Labour MP Alison McGovern, a leading supporter of the Open Britain Campaign, said: “Our economy and our public services benefit massively from the contributions of EU citizens. There are 60,000 working in our NHS alone and many others working in all sectors, including in so-called ‘low-skilled’ jobs. Without their efforts, our economy and our public services would be put at risk.
“The Government need to show that Britain is open to those who want to come here to work hard and contribute.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “These leaked proposals are a disgrace. These policies as proposed by the Home Office will effectively break up family units.”