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The Impact of Brexit on the UK Immigration Rules

Taking a stronger hold on immigration policies and borders isn’t a new agenda for the government. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel’s post-Brexit plan from January 1st 2021 for immigration undeniably proves this with a planned ‘points-based system’ with an aim to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the UK. But what will this mean for workers?

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 11 November 2020  and freedom of movement will be replaced with a points-based system to allocate points to workers aspiring to earn a living in the UK based on skills, level of education and their standard of English, to give some examples. The higher the score, the better for those wishing to reside here. This system has various purposes, but Priti Patel has made great emphasis on the need to reduce the number of economically inactive people aged 16-64 in the economy, which is estimated at 8.6 million as of November. However, not all will fit into one category as to why people are unemployed. There are a variety of reasons and it could be that they are full-time students, retired or carers rendering them incapable of having a full-time job. The Office for National Statistics reinforces this as the majority of the 8 million have viable and valid reasons for being out of work such as illness and carer duties as mentioned above. So, will this policy aiming to select workers from the existing pool truly boost the employment rate and the economy from January and is there any vulnerability to job loss risks which existing EU national workers could face?

This policy will affect many job sectors including the healthcare sector. The health correspondent for the BBC, Nick Triggle has explained that foreign nationals currently make up a sixth of the 840,000 care workers in England alone. But as these workers are considered ‘low-skilled’, could this new policy effectively push them out? It seems that thousands of workers will not meet the threshold put in place by the government and Home Office as many do not have or hold A-Level qualifications or earn a high enough salary. On the contrary, the BBC highlighted earlier this year that the definition of ‘skilled worker’ would broaden to not only include graduates but also A-Level qualification, Scottish Highers and technical equivalents. But will a broadened definition of ‘skilled workers’ relax the system for EU nationals in certain sectors? In more labour orientated jobs such as the building sector, many of the workers come from other EU countries and have learnt their skills required for their work practically as opposed to solely education. This implies that they may not have the necessary A Level or equivalent qualification the government is expecting, despite these workers exceling in their respective field. The figures which state that EU nationals make up roughly 28% of construction workers in London strongly suggest that many workers of this industry could be at risk because of the points system as they may be unable to get visas. But this is not unique to the constructive sector as many fields will experience this same vulnerability.

As well as mere risk, the government have stated that EU migrants who lose their job will have to return to their home country, unless they have indefinite leave to remain. This confirms that visas will not be given to many workers already working in the UK unless they meet the said conditions.

It is clear this post-Brexit immigration plan will affect many workers as freedom of movement comes to a close for the UK. EU nationals who wish to come to the UK will almost certainly struggle much more than under the existing immigration rules. The lingering question is how much strain will it put and how much will it benefit the struggling economy?

Many individuals in positions of hospitality, the labour market, seasonal work and plenty more may be unable to change their situation and be worried for their future as ‘low-skilled’ or ‘economically inactive’. If you are in a similar position and are concerned for the assessment of your economic activity, please contact us for a consultation and speak to a member of our award winning Black Antelope Law Immigration Team.

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