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LONDON – Theresa May’s plans to dramatically reduce immigration after Brexit have been leaked to the Guardian.
The newspaper published an 82-page Home Office paper detailing the government’s plans, which have already been labelled a “disgrace” by opposition parties.
Although not yet official (the Home Office said “initial proposals for a new immigration system” will be properly published in the autumn), the plans would mark a colossal shift in the way the government treats people who come to live and work in the UK.
So what are the plans and how would they affect European people coming to stay in Britain?
EU immigrants might have to get work permits
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EU citizens are currently free to come to live and work in the UK as they please. However, under May’s proposals free movement would be replaced by a new scheme of work permits.
All but the highest skilled EU workers will need to apply for a permit, which will last two years at the very most. Even the most skilled workers would have their permit extended to five years at a maximum.
Those entering could need to demonstrate that they already have a job lined up. Permits could also be dependent on income thresholds, further limiting the supply of lower-skilled labour from the EU.
EU citizens already living here would also need to register their position and apply for “settled status” in the UK. Failure to do so could lead to them losing their right to remain.
They could lose out to ‘British first’ hiring policies
The proposals would also make it harder for employers to accept EU workers as employees.
Under the plans companies would be required to give “preference in the job market to resident workers,” according to the document seen by The Guardian. It said they could “require employers to recruit locally first,” adding that “wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour.”
EU immigrants will also only be allowed to work in the UK if their employment will benefit local people. “Put plainly, this means that, 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.”
They may have to get compulsory ID cards
EU citizens can currently enter the UK with just their European identity cards and do not need to register their desire to work with UK authorities.
However, under the new plans, EU citizens would need to show their passports when entering the country and could also need to register their plans to work as well as leave their fingerprints.
A new biometric style identification card could also be introduced as part of the work permit plans. Earlier this year the government strongly denied they were planning to implement new “identity cards” by the back door for EU workers.
EU immigrants could fall victim to quotas
In practical terms, this could mean the implementation of quotas for the number of allowable migrants for certain industries.
“We may restrict access to occupations that are not in shortage, particularly in non-highly skilled occupations,” the document states, according to The Guardian.
Rights for family members could also vanish
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EU citizens and their families are currently free to live and work in the UK. However, one of the most controversial elements of the plans are new restrictions on family members of citizens already living here to come and join them.
Under the proposals, the definition of what constitutes a family member would be restricted. “We propose to define family members as direct family members only, plus durable partners,” it states.
There would also be new incomes thresholds imposed on those seeking to bring over family members, as currently applies to those coming from outside the EU. EU citizens would also lose the protection of European courts under these proposals.
This latter aspect is likely to be a major sticking point in Brexit negotiations, where the EU is insisting that its citizens retain their current legal rights.