The government has today (2 February 2017) confirmed that it will need to introduce new legislation to set out the post-Brexit immigration and customs systems. The announcement came after the Brexit Secretary David Davis released a White Paper entitled “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union“.
On the subject of immigration the White Paper states:
We are considering very carefully the options that are open to us to gain control of the numbers of people coming to the UK from the EU. As part of that, it is important that we understand the impacts on the different sectors of the economy and the labour market. We will, therefore, ensure that businesses and communities have the opportunity to contribute their views. Equally, we will need to understand the potential impacts of any proposed changes in all the parts of the UK. So we will build a comprehensive picture of the needs and interests of all parts of the UK and look to develop a system that works for all.
Implementing any new immigration arrangements for EU nationals and the support they receive will be complex and Parliament will have an important role in considering these matters further. There may be a phased process of implementation to prepare for the new arrangements. This would give businesses and individuals enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.“
The White Paper also confirms that the UK intends to leave the single market and customs union:
“We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. The UK already has zero tariffs on goods and a common regulatory framework with the EU Single Market. This position is unprecedented in previous trade negotiations. Unlike other trade negotiations, this is not about bringing two divergent systems together. It is about finding the best way for the benefit of the common systems and frameworks, that currently enable UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each others’ markets, to continue when we leave the EU through a new comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.
That agreement may take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when the UK and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years. Such an arrangement would be on a fully reciprocal basis and in our mutual interests“.
It fails, however, to clarify the future legal status of European citizens living in the UK or British citizens living in the other EU countries, after the white paper said:
“Securing the status of, and providing certainty to, EU nationals already in the UK and to UK nationals in the EU is one of this Government’s early priorities for the forthcoming negotiations. To this end, we have engaged a range of stakeholders, including expatriate groups, to ensure we understand the priorities of UK nationals living in EU countries. This is part of our preparations for a smooth and orderly withdrawal and we will continue to work closely with a range of organisations and individuals to achieve this. For example, we recognise the priority placed on easy access to healthcare by UK nationals living in the EU. We are also engaging closely with EU Member States, businesses and other organisations to ensure that we have a thorough understanding of issues concerning the status of EU nationals in the UK.
The Government would have liked to resolve this issue ahead of the formal negotiations. And although many EU Member States favour such an agreement, this has not proven possible. The UK remains ready to give people the certainty they want and reach a reciprocal deal with our European partners at the earliest opportunity. It is the right and fair thing to do”.