Freedom of Movement to End as Brexit Negotiations Get Serious

UK Border

David McKelvey via Flickr

Up until now, much of the talk about Brexit had been about how little had been achieved in negotiations which have been ongoing for a month or so now.

The Great British public, never shy of making their voice heard on matters of democracy, voted collectively (if not overwhelmingly) for Leave – and whether you agree with that decision or not, the key thing is that the UK’s democratic wishes are granted.

But today there has been the first real signs of Brexit negotiations cranking into life and delivering tangible outcome.

It has been announced that the free movement of people between the UK and the EU will end in March 2019, when the exit from the single market will commence. This follows a dossier requested by the government that outlines the costs and benefits of EU migrants into the United Kingdom.

How this will be carried out, in practice, has not been confirmed, although a work permit style system has been muted.

Taking Control

One of the key political hot potatoes that ultimately led to the Leave vote was immigration, with the unhalted movement of migrants into the UK a cause for concern for many voters. The announcement from senior political figures that the borders would be taken control of was the kind of dynamic narrative that really greases the wheel of the voting public.

Whether the numbers published by the tabloid media in the lead-up to the referendum are remotely accurate or simply scaremongering is anybody’s guess, but clearly the impact that the red tops had on the voting public made a difference.

There are implications with ceasing immigration, certainly for employment in certain sectors that rely on low-skilled, low paid immigrants. The assertion of the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, that the UK would ‘continue to attract the brightest and the best migrants’ suggests that the manual labour workforce could be worst hit by the decision.

The report that the government will use as part of their post-Brexit planning will be produced by the Migration Advisory Committee, who will analyse the economic and social impacts of EU migration on the UK, and propose measures to cut the numbers of migrants or even close the border to all but the most qualified.

Amber Rudd has said that “we will ensure we continue to attract those who benefit us economically, socially and culturally.”

“But, at the same time, our new immigration system will give us control of the volume of people coming here – giving the public confidence we are applying our own rules on who we want to come to the UK and helping us to bring down net migration to sustainable levels.”

As you might expect, there is opposition to the plans. The Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman, Sir Ed Davey, said that discussions regarding immigration ‘do nothing to reassure the hospitals that are already seeing record numbers of EU nurses leaving, or the companies struggling to recruit the staff they need.’

“The NHS, businesses and universities that depend on European citizens need answers now, not in another 14 months’ time,” Davey added.

EU Immigration: The Numbers

In 2016, official statistics show that net migration in the UK was 133,000 – 250,000 EU nationals crossed the border, and 117,000 British residents left for pastures new. That’s around 0.02% of the UK population.

Interestingly, in the second half of 2016 (post Brexit) net migration fell by 50,000 people – attributed to the referendum result and a particular drop in those from Eastern Europe crossing the border.

One thing that doesn’t get reported by the tabloids is that nearly half of all EU migrants have a job to go to prior to moving to the UK full time, with 24% looking for work, 14% studying in full time education and 11% coming to look after their children.

There are around 3.2 million EU citizens currently living in the UK, with 2.3 million of those in employment. And, Daily Mail readers look away now, ‘EU nationals of working age are more likely to be in work than UK nationals and non-EU citizens.’

Yes, You Can Still Take Your Summer Holidays

The EU has yet to confirm how they will treat immigration into the Union from the UK as yet, so if you have plans to emigrate for work or leisure it is perhaps awaiting further details on this before you make any life-changing plans.

As far as your holidays are concerned, there’s no need to worry. The Freedom of Movement Act does not inhibit recreational trips!