As Theresa May gets closer to triggering Article 50 next month, details of the Brexit agreement are beginning to come out.
One of the latest claims from inside the government is that May will end rights of EU nationals under freedom of movement rules, a move that is creating waves and causing tension throughout the region.
May’s Controversial Declaration
May’s decision is apparently rooted in concern that “half of Romania and Bulgaria” will come to the UK before Brexit. As it currently stands, EU citizens can look for a job in any other EU member nation without needing a work visa, but that will end in the UK as soon as the country leaves the EU.
Sources say May will announce that EU citizens who arrive after March 15 will not be allowed to live in the UK permanently.
However, the 3.6 million EU citizens who currently live in Britain will still have their rights protected—as long as the same is true for UK citizens living in other EU member nations.
“Theresa understands that if you want to take control you have to command the high ground,” said Eurosceptic Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. “She will be giving clarity by setting a clear deadline while the European Union looks increasingly muddled and mean-spirited.”
However, a recent vote over the issue in the House of Lords was a blow to May’s plan, as the majority voted for EU citizens living in the UK to maintain the same rights after Brexit as they are now, effectively cancelling May’s proposed cut-off date. Despite a last-minute plea from home sectary Amber Rudd, the bill’s passage will now be delayed, meaning Brexit’s immigration implications are still in the air.
The move has yet to be officially announced but it already getting criticism from the EU, which claims the cut-off date should be the same as the date Brexit is officially finalized.
Employers throughout the UK are already concerned about having enough employees after Brexit, especially if EU citizens are forced to leave. Many experts predict it could take years for UK businesses in hard-hit industries like hospitality and social care to recover from the loss of EU citizen employees.
Other Immigration Issues
May’s plan is just one issue facing the unknown immigrant issue as Brexit looms. There have been concerns across the EU and the UK that immigration will decrease dramatically when Britain leaves, but those fears are being put to rest by UK home secretary Amber Rudd.
Many cynics are worried that the finalization of Brexit will instantly shut the doors on the UK. However, a number of plans are being considered with the consulting help of UK business owners, many of whom are directly affected by the potential change in immigration.
Among the possible solutions are five-year working visas, a work permit system that allows the UK to monitor and control how many EU citizens enter the country to work for a UK company every year, and a points-based system to match immigrants and employers.
No matter the solution, the British government is consulting with a wide range of policymakers and business owners to ensure a fair compromise is met. In the meantime, however, uncertainty looms as many EU citizens don’t know if or when they will be forced to return to their home countries, sometimes forcibly.
There are a lot of uncertainties as Brexit gets closer, and issues surrounding immigration are often touchy subjects for all involved. As both sides are heard and negotiations continue, hopefully a solution can be agreed upon that appeases citizens of the EU and the UK.