It was officially announced by the UK Prime Minister’s spokesman that the principle of free movement, one of the guiding pillars of the EU, will end when the UK leaves.
From March 2019, when the negotiation of Brexit will come to an end, two years after the art 50 has been triggered, also the free movement of EU citizens will stop.
After the second round of negotiation, Michael Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, confirmed that there was still ”no clear British position” on the two main issues discussed between Brussels and London at the end of June: the divorce bill after leaving the bloc and the rights of the European Union citizens in the UK. In the meantime, some members of the May’s team expressed their different and conflicting views over this last priority too.
Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said that European nationals will still be able to move to the UK but will need to go through a “registration and documentation” process. The British government has already asked the more than 3 million European citizens currently living in the UK to officially register their interest in acquiring the documentation allowing them to live and work in the country after 2019. This registration process is considered a first step towards regularizing their legal post-Brexit status, but most of the people have lost their trust in the UK government and collectively refused to do it if it won’t entitle them to residency. Business leaders are also concerned that the consequences of this hard Brexit and the new immigration arrangements would have a detrimental effect on the UK economy due to a sudden drop in the arrival of skilled workers.
On these purposes, the Interior minister reassured the people and the business that there will be an implementation period to ensure there is no “cliff-edge” on the UK’s departure for employees or individuals. During this post-Brexit transitional phase, that could last for two or four years so, until 2022, immigration would remain broadly the same as before. Also, the Minister of Finance, Philip Hammond, favors this idea and suggested that there should be no immediate change in immigration rules when Britain leaves the block.
The Home Office has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to study the economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the UK economy. The report should be done by September 2018, just six months before Brexit. Based on the results, new long-term arrangements covering the migration of EU citizens will be taken by the government. As Rudd said, Britain will continue to attract those who benefit the country economically socially and culturally but at the same time, with the new immigration system, they will have control of the volume of people coming. This will help to bring down immigration to a sustainable level and giving the public the confidence the UK is applying its own rules.
Another strong opinion on this matter is the one of the Trade Minister, Liam Fox, who is seeking a clear break from the Union. According to what he declared during some interviews, allowing free movement and keeping open EU immigration after Brexit would not “keep faith” with the referendum’s result which expressed the will of the citizens to leave the block.
To calm down this “civil war”, as the Pro-EU Liberal Democrats leader spoke of, the clarifying declaration of Downing Street arrived.
The decision has been taken but “other elements of the post-Brexit immigration system will be brought forward in due course”.
To know more about the future situation of the more than 3 million of European nationals living in the UK and the 1.2 million UK citizens living in other EU member states, we need to wait until the third round of negotiations between Brussels and London, scheduled for August 28th, will take place.
By Francesca Pugliese