The House of Lords European Union Committee earlier this week expressed its disappointment over the response by the Government to the Committee’s report on Brexit and UK-EU movement of people, published in early March last year, just before the triggering of Article 50.
By way of background, the Committee’s report was published in the previous parliamentary session, amidst heated debates on the approach to and procedures for Brexit. The Committee’s report examined the possible arrangements for migration of EU citizens to the UK after the UK has left the EU with a view to identifying the main choices available to the Government and their likely implications – including options for UK citizens wishing to move to the EU in the future. The report supported the proposed “two-way agreement” with the EU regarding future migration flows. It also recommended that the Government should focus on improving its evidence base before further complicating the skills-based immigration policy in respect of non-EU nationals. The report went on to specify that in view of the other goals of Brexit, the Committee considered it vital that the Government should not close off policy options on future EU immigration ahead of negotiations with the EU-27, and that the unanimous view of the public and private sector employers’ groups was that the Government should not apply the UK’s non-EU work permit system to EU nationals. The report concluded that the restoration of national control over EU migration may or may not deliver a reduction in overall net migration.
The Government’s response came in December 2017, more than 6 months after the publication of the report and just after Phase I of the negotiation process concluded. The response stated that the UK is determined to swiftly reach an agreement that provides reassurance for both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. It went on to state that there will be an implementation period after Brexit, and that the way in which EU movement will be controlled is yet to be decided, but the options are being considered carefully and that proposals will be published in 2018.
The committee’s letter criticised the Government’s response as it failed to address the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions directly, which was deemed “not acceptable”. The Minister for Immigration was asked to be clear about what the government’s ‘red lines’ on immigration entailed before the second stage of Brexit negotiations, to specify which of the recommendations and conclusions the Minister was not in a position to respond to at this time, and to respond directly to those recommendations where the Government could provide further details. The Government was invited to respond within 10 working days.
This letter becomes yet another document from Parliament, criticising the Government on their immigration policy objectives. In a report published last week by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, the Government was advised to review its approach to immigration. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report this week, highlighting the areas in which concerns about Brexit are especially acute, outlining in particular issues over the access to talent and the workforce and the funding challenges that some industries will face.
In addition, this week the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford published a study suggesting that the cumulative net inflow of post-2016 migrants will account for over half (61%) of total population growth until 2041. It is yet to be seen what concrete long-term policies the Government will provide for EU nationals wishing to travel to the UK post-Brexit and how the impact on the potential ending of free movement will be contained.
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