Brexit – Prepare to Have Your Say on the UK’s Future Immigration System

November 2018

In September 2018, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its final report on the current and likely future patterns of European Economic Area (EEA) migration and its impact on the UK. The MAC’s intention was to provide an evidence base for a new migration system after the end of the proposed Brexit transition period, from January 2021.

We commented on the report at the time, but the MAC’s key recommendations are:

  • No preferential visa system for EEA workers after the transition period
  • Make it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers
  • No dedicated immigration route for lower-skilled workers, including those paid less than £30,000 (save for the agricultural sector).
The government has since indicated its intention to broadly adopt these recommendations. In practice, this means that UK businesses are unlikely to be able to fill roles with salaries below £30,000 with new EEA workers arriving in the UK from January 2021 (or possibly earlier, in the event of a no-deal scenario). Employers currently dependent on a steady stream of EEA workers to fill lower paid roles could therefore struggle to meet their future resourcing needs. This could have a dramatic impact on all sectors but those most likely to be at risk include manufacturing, hospitality, retail, construction, logistics, food processing, health and social care.

The government has said it will publish an immigration white paper in the coming weeks. This should provide details of the specific immigration policies that it intends to introduce. We are hoping that businesses will be given a formal opportunity to comment on these policies and raise concerns. Given that the proposals are likely to have a significant effect on future EEA migration to the UK, our Business Immigration team will be supporting clients and contacts to understand and respond to the white paper.

With this in mind, we are asking businesses that are concerned about future UK immigration policy to register their interest now so that we can send further guidance on the relevant proposals in the white paper and how to respond to it once it is published. In the meantime, given that the government may allow only a brief window for businesses to respond to the white paper, we have listed the key points that any concerned business should be considering now with a view to including these as part of any meaningful representations (whether it chooses to submit these through us or independently).

For further guidance on any Brexit related immigration queries, please contact Annabel Mace, Partner and Head of UK Immigration.