Free-movement at the cliff face
Amidst the Parliamentary furore, on Monday the Government quietly released the key immigration policy for a no-deal scenario, highlighting the chasm which now exists between the deal and no-deal outcomes. This restrictive policy adds to the long line of initiatives overseen by a Prime Minister preoccupied with ‘getting tough on immigration’.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the free movement model is effectively maintained for those EU nationals and their family members currently here as well as those who arrive up until the end of the transition period, currently set to run until 31 December 2020.
Central to the Withdrawal Agreement is the EU Settlement Scheme, a mandatory registration system which opened to the general public on 21 January 2019. Regardless of whether there is a deal or not, all EU nationals, and their family members, resident in the UK by the time the UK leaves the EU, must register under the Scheme.
However, if the deal goes through Parliament then the EU Settlement Scheme will be extended to EU citizens, and their family members, arriving up until 31 December 2020.
Or no deal
We now know that in a no-deal scenario, free movement will end and any EU nationals arriving after 29 March 2019, and wishing to stay in the UK beyond 3 months, will have to apply for permission to remain in the UK. These people must apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain.
And the clue is in the title: this will give EU nationals, and their family members, temporary permission to stay in the UK for a period of 36 months. This form of leave is non-extendable and does not lead to indefinite leave to remain. After 36 months, individuals will face two options: switch onto a category under the new immigration system which commences on 1 January 2021, and which may involve taking a job which complies with a minimum income threshold of £30,000, as personally favoured by the Prime Minister, or… leave the UK. Those who stay on without leave commit a criminal offence.
Irish citizens are exempt from having to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain as they will continue to have a right to enter and live in the UK under the Common Travel Area arrangements.
Tough on immigration
As author of the Government’s Hostile Environment policy, introduced while she was Home Secretary, Theresa May has been genuinely ‘tough on immigrants’, no more so than the Windrush generation, and as Prime Minister, she shows no sign of relenting.
The Government recently scrapped the £65 EU Settlement Scheme registration fee. Was this belated recognition that long-term EU residents, allowed to come here under free movement and who have contributed to society, should not have to pay for the privilege of remaining here?
It appears that under the current Government, we cannot expect anything other than a tougher stance on immigration, a stance which is pejoratively exacerbated by a no-deal scenario.