The EU Withdrawal Bill, now in the Committee stage before the House of Lords, ends EU nationals’ freedom of movement, and gives the Home Office broad discretion to create new policies applicable to all immigrants, starting in 2021.
Overall, the proposed post-Brexit points-based immigration system fails to respond to the UK’s economic needs and fails to protect workers. It is also at odds with the Government’s ‘Global Britain’ strategy to attract the ‘brightest and best’ to work and study here.
Some of the new framework’s most troublesome features are as follows:
- The new system is anticipated to produce labour shortages in several sectors, including those recognised as essential during the Covid-19 crisis – notably, social care, farming, and food processing
- Due to employer sponsorship requirements, it is also likely to increase worker exploitation. • Lack of access to social benefits and the imposition of health surcharge fees will further negatively impact immigrants’ lives.
- It also presents the risk that some immigrants will be pushed into undocumented status.
- And, of course, it overlooks the likelihood that Britons will be subjected to reciprocal restrictions imposed by the EU2 .
Although the new system will likely increase immigration from outside of Europe, it will significantly reduce EU immigration, especially of those from Central and Eastern Europe, and of those who do not manage to obtain ‘high-skill’, high-paid employment.
Moreover, EU students will no longer be entitled to home-fee status or student loans, and thus their enrolment is expected to shrink by 20%, exposing the HE sector to an even greater financial crisis than it is already experiencing.
The new framework overlooks the fact that EU movers have had a significantly positive impact on many aspects of British society. Over the years, they have created a richer and more diverse British culture. By introducing new ideas, expertise, customs and art, EU nationals have helped to create the multi-cultural, vibrant country that the UK is today.
Empirical studies have consistently indicated EU movers’ positive impact on native Britons’ subjective well-being. In part due to their high rates of employment and little reliance on public services and social benefits, EU movers’ positive contribution on the UK’s public finances has also been well documented – in addition to their increasing productivity and innovation, and reducing prices of personal services.
Finally, EU students have contributed to all students’ learning experience and their skillsets to the UK’s economy. Since there are no specific regulations in place yet, this briefing urges the Government to draft a comprehensive list of shortage occupations to include key workers and select positions classified as ‘low-skill’.
The Government should take into account labour organisations’ concerns over shortages, while recognising studies indicating EU citizens’ significant contributions to the public purse. EU students should continue to be welcomed in the UK, to enrich the teaching and learning environment from which British students benefit and to contribute their skillsets.
Instead of implementing un-reflexive, arguably xenophobic policies in line with the anti-migrant climate exploited in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, the UK needs to rethink the purpose of its immigration controls, and subject them to Parliamentary scrutiny rather than being left to the whims of the Home Office’s fragmented and over-politicised approach.
Furthermore, the media and politicians should abstain from spreading misinformation about the impact of immigrants on the UK, and should instead acknowledge the multitude of immigrants’ economic, social and cultural contributions to the UK.
Ultimately, the Brexit-prompted policy overhaul should be seen as an opportunity to improve the UK’s immigration system and the working conditions of all immigrants, and to create an environment for more responsible, transparent, and evidence-based public debates.
About the author:
Dr Dagmar Rita Myslinska is a Lecturer in Law at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include migration, equality, the EU, and ethnicity and race. Dagmar convenes Immigration Law module on the LLB programme, supervises the Immigration branch of the Law & Policy Clinic, and is a contributor to ‘Britain in Europe’ thinktank. She is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In addition to her scholarly publications, she has authored numerous open-access reference articles on asylum law and has contributed to LSE BrexitVote Blog and various media outlets regarding migration issues. Before joining Goldsmiths, she had clerked for two federal judges in the USA and had taught law at several institutions in the USA and Japan. She had also practiced commercial and pro bono immigration law and has volunteered extensively for immigrant charities and human rights organisations, including Human Rights First in New York. She studied at Yale University (BA, cum laude), Columbia University School of Law (Juris Doctor), and the LSE (PhD, Law).