- Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
- Leaked government proposals for immigration after Brexit labelled a “disgrace”by opponents The plans suggest restricting access to the UK to all but the highest-skilled EU workers. Sadiq Khan says they are a “blueprint on how to strangle our economy.” Business leaders say the government is showing a “deep lack of understanding.”
LONDON – Theresa May’s leaked proposals for immigration after Brexit have come under fierce criticism from politicians and business, with one MP saying that it was a “mean and cynical approach.”
The plans, which were leaked to the Guardian, propose ending free movement of labour immediately after Brexit and restricting the amount of low-skilled EU migrants allowed to come to the UK.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attacked the plans in a tweet, calling them a “blueprint on how to strangle our economy,” and “wrong for London and for Britain.”
Khan also said the plans “would be devastating not just for our city but for the whole country. It risks thousands of families being split up.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said she would be forcing the Home Affairs select committee, which she chairs, to question ministers over the paper as it suggested the government was not prepared to listen to independent advice.
Cooper said: “This document seems to contradict the home secretary’s decision just over a month ago to ask the Migration Advisory Committee to provide all the evidence to underpin a new immigration policy.Why have they asked the MAC to do a major programme of work if they have already decided what they want to do?
“Why have they asked the MAC to do a major programme of work if they have already decided what they want to do?”
In July Home Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned a report from the MAC about the impact of EU migrants on the UK, which would be published in September 2018.
Cooper said the government’s approach appears to be “completely confused” and questioned if any assessment had been made of the relationship between these proposals and any deal with the EU.
Government showing a “deep lack of understanding”
The leaked paper proposes making it much harder for migrants to bring in their family members and ending the right to settle in the UK for most EU migrants.
The proposals have not been endorsed by ministers yet, but it is understood that the cabinet is at odds over the future of EU immigration, and its impact on business.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s no wonder these back-of-an-envelope plans are causing rows between ministers. They would do nothing to tackle falling living standards and insecure jobs.”
Ian Wright, the director general of the Food and Drink Federation slammed the proposals: “If this does represent the Government’s thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make – at all skill levels – across the food chain.”
Seamus Nevin, the Institue of Directors’ head of employment and skills said: “This is not an approach that business leaders – especially of small-and medium-sized firms – will want to see,” and “The UK needs an immigration system which provides control while also enabling employers to access the foreign workers they need at all levels.”
Immigration plans are “plainly cruel”
Politicians from across the political divide made clear their opposition to the plans.
Labour MP Alison McGovern, a leading supporter of Open Britain and co-chair of the Labour campaign for the single market said: “This leaked document is part and parcel of a mean and cynical approach which is already deterring people from coming here.”
Other opposition parties strongly criticised the leak, with co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas saying that the “plainly cruel” proposals and the rules would be a “profound mistake.”
She said: “The Government’s post-Brexit immigration crackdown isn’t just economically illiterate, it’s plainly cruel too. Ministers know that ending free movement will damage the British economy – yet they are ploughing ahead regardless. Now they’re also planning draconian rules on family members of EU nationals and harsh income requirements too. “
The SNP’s leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said: “These leaked proposals are a disgrace. These policies as proposed by the Home Office will effectively break up family units.”
The Liberal Democrat’s home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “First they [the Home Office] send EU citizens deportation letters, now they are plotting to keep out all Europeans bar footballers and brain surgeons.”
On Monday a poll showed that a majority of British voters want to see unskilled EU immigration reduced through a cap, but still want skilled workers to be allowed to enter the UK after Brexit.
Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke told the Guardian there had been a “clear instruction from the British people to take back control of our borders and end uncontrolled EU immigration,” in the Brexit vote.
Elphicke, MP for Dover, said: “We want to attract the best and the brightest. Yet we must listen to working people’s just concerns and tackle unsustainable levels of immigration.”