The UK government has drawn up plans aimed at slashing the levels of migration from the European Union immediately after Brexit, according to a document obtained by the Guardian.
Officials at the Home Office, the UK government department that has responsibility for immigration, outlined a series of stringent measures aimed at making immigration from the EU harder after Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.
They include ending the free movement of labor on the day that Britain leaves the EU, and making it harder for lower-skilled workers to enter.
Opponents of Brexit criticized the measures as unnecessarily harsh, and some commentators said they were at odds with the government’s stated aim of achieving a transition deal with the EU after Brexit.
But government ministers said voters expected to see a reduction in immigration.
According to the draft paper, which ministers have yet to approve, the UK would attempt to ensure that businesses give priority to “resident labor.”
EU citizens who come to the UK for lower-skilled jobs could be awarded a two-year residency, while those in higher-skilled occupations would be given five years. The changes would come in at the end of the transition period after Britain’s departure, which could last up to three years.
Other changes that could be introduced include a minimum salary for low-skilled workers coming to the UK and a temporary program for seasonal workers. The document also says the government would place new restrictions on the rights of EU migrants to bring in family members.
“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,” the draft document says.
’Strangle our economy’
The leak of the paper, which is marked “draft, official, sensitive,” comes just a day before the House of Commons debates a major piece of legislation meant to pave the way for the withdrawal.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan slammed the memo, saying it read “like a blueprint on how to strangle London’s economy.”
Khan, a vociferous opponent of Brexit, said the proposals would be “devastating not just for our city but for the whole country.” He warned that “thousands” of families could be split up.
“I respect the outcome of the EU referendum, but the British people did not vote to make our country and future generations poorer,” he said in a statement.
“An extreme hard Brexit – which was rejected just a few months ago at the general election – would be terrible for London and Britain alike.”
But Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the government must strike a balance to control immigration. “We’re not closing the door on all future immigration but it has to be managed properly and people do expect to see the numbers coming down,” he told the BBC.
While the document suggests long-term net migration from the EU has fallen over the past year to 133,000, the government says it is committed to cutting overall net migration to the tens of thousands.
One of the more contentious areas of the document centers on the rights of EU migrant workers to bring family members to the UK.
According to the document, the government intends to place restrictions on “extended family members” and tighten the definition of who qualifies as a family member. “We propose to define family members as direct family members only, plus durable partners,” it reads.
In addition, those EU nationals who wish to be joined by non-EU family members would need to earn at least £18,600 ($24,000) a year.