The number of low-skilled EU workers in Britain will be slashed under a Brexit plan to end mass migration.
Bosses will have to put British workers first, according to a leaked Home Office paper.
A ‘direct numerical cap’ could be imposed when the UK leaves the 28-nation EU in March 2019.
Low-skilled workers would be allowed to stay for only one or two years while professionals could apply for five-year visas.
Plans for tough new immigration rules that mean an immediate end to free movement after Brexit were revealed tonight in a massive leak from the Home Office, run by Amber Rudd (pictured)
An 82-page document leaked tonight (pictured) revealed plans to make all EU citizens show a passport when they visit Britain after Brexit
To give preference to British workers, firms would have to pass a rigorous ‘economic needs test’ before recruiting EU nationals lacking higher qualifications.
The 82-page document says migration policy will be determined by the UK national interest, ensuring social cohesion and reducing the number of arrivals.
The paper said: ‘To be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but make existing residents better off.’
The radical proposals include:
- An immediate end to free movement after Brexit;
- Jobseekers will not be given residence permits;
- The rights of EU nationals to bring in family members will be dramatically curtailed;
- Transitional controls will last around two years before a new system is imposed;
- EU citizens will need passports to enter the UK, not just identity cards.
Last night Whitehall sources insisted the document had not been signed off by ministers and immigration policy was still a ‘work in progress’.
Officials have produced at least six subsequent versions, the source added. The measures are likely to be watered down as part of Brexit talks.
Campaigners for controlled migration and Tory MPs hailed the proposals, saying they reflected the public’s demands for an end to mass immigration.
Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank, said: ‘This is very good news. Completely uncontrolled migration from the EU simply cannot be allowed to continue.
Chancellor Philip Hammond (left) and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (right) have both warned about the dangers of slashing immigration too quickly
‘These proposals rightly focus on the highly skilled and, by doing so, could well reduce net migration from Europe by about 100,000 a year.’
Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said: ‘People want a robust approach on tackling the number of low-skilled migrants coming to Britain as they feel deeply this pushes down the wages of working people.’
However, there was an immediate backlash last night with Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan saying: ‘It reads like a blueprint on how to strangle London’s economy, which would be devastating not just for our city but for the whole country.’
The leak comes just days after the latest round of Brexit talks ended in acrimony and a row over the so-called divorce bill.
It could anger Brussels if it is seen that the plans downgrade the status of EU citizens too far. Theresa May is reportedly set to deliver a key speech on Britain’s future relationship with the EU later this month as negotiations approach a critical stage.
Labour MP Alison McGovern, who campaigns for the Remain-supporting Open Britain lobby group, branding the plans ‘mean and cynical’ tonight
The document, entitled ‘Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the EU’ – dated August 2017 – was published in full by the Guardian newspaper last night.
It makes clear that in setting future immigration policy ministers will be ‘guided’ by their policy of hitting the target of cutting net migration to the tens of thousands, and to give ‘preference in the job market to resident workers’.
It says that high levels of net migration are ‘not inevitable’.
‘To be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but also make existing residents better off,’ it says. After Brexit, there would be a transition period lasting at least two years, during which EU nationals would be free to come to the UK for short periods, but would be forced to register with the Home Office after living here for three months.
Anyone who wants to stay will have to show evidence of a employment, study or self-sufficiency. The document defines this as having an income above £18,600 – as per non-EU nationals.
There would then be a gradual ratcheting up of controls over years to a new system. In the longer term, low-skilled migration would be limited either using a straightforward cap, a minimum salary level or skill shortage assessments. Tourism, business and other short-term visits would continue as normal.
In a dramatic shift in policy, firms would be allowed to hire migrants only if they could prove they had tried – and failed – to hire a Briton.
The document states: ‘We are clear that, wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour. It is now more important than ever that we have the right skills domestically to build a strong and competitive economy.
‘It is not a question of stopping EU migration. But there will be a fundamental shift in our policy in that the Government will take a view on the economic and social needs of the country as regards migration, rather than leaving this decision entirely to EU citizens and their employers.
‘We will want to strike the right balance – making sure we attract the people we need to fill key labour market requirements, and ensuring that we continue to support UK businesses to prosper, while addressing concerns about the impact of uncontrolled migration on public services and community cohesion.’
To help farmers ensure they have enough labour to pick fruit, a seasonal workers scheme would give temporary work permits.
Green MP and co-party leader Caroline Lucas said the plans were economically illiterate and ‘a profound mistake’.
‘Ministers know that ending free movement will damage the British economy – yet they are ploughing ahead regardless,’ she said.
‘Now they’re also planning draconian rules on family members of EU nationals and harsh income requirements too. Britain has benefited from freedom of movement and from the enormous contribution of EU nationals.’