Leaked post-Brexit immigration plans branded 'mean and cynical'

The proposals suggest Britain will end free movement rules immediately

Leaked post-Brexit immigration plans branded 'mean and cynical'

Officers from the UK Border Agency during a 2011 search for illegal workers in Bedfordshire | Image: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/PA Images

The British Home Office is being accused of a "mean and cynical" immigration crackdown.

It comes after a leaked Brexit blueprint revealed plans to slam the door on thousands of unskilled EU migrants.

Under detailed proposals drawn up by officials, Britain will end Brussels' free movement of labour rules immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers.

The 82-page document, marked as extremely sensitive and dated August 2017, amounts to a "British jobs for British workers" strategy and will delight hard-line Brexiteers but anger pro-Remain MPs.

It says: "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 document proposes measures to drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants by offering them residency for a maximum of only two years.

Those in "high-skilled occupations" would be granted permits to work three to five years.

The document also describes a phased introduction to a new immigration system: ending the right to settle in Britain for most EU migrants and tough new restrictions on rights to bring in family members - meaning many families could be split up.

Showing a passport would be mandatory for all EU nationals wanting to enter Britain and there would be a system of temporary biometric residence permits for all EU nationals coming into the UK after Brexit for more than a few months.

The paper, entitled "The Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the European Union", has already prompted a fierce political row, after being leaked to The Guardian.

A British government spokesperson said : "We do not comment on leaked draft documents.

"We will be setting out our initial proposals for a new immigration system which takes back control of the UK's borders later in the autumn."

Opposition MPs have reacted angrily to the leak, which comes only weeks after rows over UK Home Office letters threatening EU citizens with deportation and discredited statistics on overseas students remaining in the UK.

Other proposals in the Home Office document include:

  • Plans to restrict EU immigration by giving "preference in the job market to resident workers"
  • Proposals for a "stepping stone" temporary implementation period for "at least two years" after Brexit day. That would be followed by the introduction of the full immigration policy for EU nationals
  • Plans to scrap EU rules on the rights of extended family members to reside in the UK. The document says "there is virtually no limit on the distance of the relationship between the EU citizen and the family member" in the current system
  • If an EU national living in the UK wants to bring their spouse from outside the EU here, he or she will have to earn a minimum of stg£18,600 (€20,341) a year, bringing EU nationals in line with the restriction already imposed on Britons
  • No new border checks for EU nationals entering the country, although they will be required to travel on a passport not a national identity card. Instead all new EU arrivals will have "deemed leave" to enter Britain for an as yet unspecified period, likely to between three and six months. After that, to stay longer, they will have to apply for a biometric residence permit, which may include a fingerprint
  • In contrast to the "free movement directive", residence permits will not be granted to jobseekers. A specific "income threshold" will be introduced for "self-sufficient" migrants
  • Plans to introduce "right to work" checks. These would have to be carried out by employers, with criminal sanctions possible against companies and individuals if illegal working is discovered