Brexit: Leaked plan to give preference to British workers

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British workers would get preference over those from EU countries in the jobs market following Brexit, a leak of a draft Home Office plan suggests.

Firms would have to recruit locally unless they could prove an “economic need” to employ EU citizens.

They could face a skills tax to boost training of UK workers if they still chose to employ unskilled EU staff.

The idea – in a leaked document obtained by the Guardian – is part of a plan to cut low-skilled migration.

It has not been signed off by ministers, who will set out their post-Brexit migration plans later this year.

But Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The public voted to leave the European Union. That means freedom of movement has to end.”

He said “people with the right skills” would still be “welcome”.

But he added: “Equally we have to make sure that British companies are also prepared to train up British workers.

“The public are very clear, they want to see immigration not stopped but brought properly under control.”

The Home Office document obtained by the Guardian, entitled the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the EU, is marked extremely sensitive and dated August 2017.

Among the ideas in it are:

  • A cap on the number of unskilled workers from the EU
  • Introducing a salary and skills threshold
  • Preventing EU migrants from job-seeking in the UK
  • Ending the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants
  • Placing new restrictions on their rights to bring in family members

“The government will take a view on the economic and social needs of the country as regards EU migration, rather than leaving this decision entirely to those wishing to come here and employers,” the document states.

Low-skilled migrants would be offered residency for a maximum of two years while those in “high-skilled occupations” would be granted permits to work for a longer period of three to five years.

The document says the new regime would only come fully into force at the end of a transition period, which could last up to three years.

There would be no new border checks on entering the country – all EU citizens will be required to show a passport but they would not need to get it stamped.

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, insisted British firms were not employing cheap foreign labour rather than training up local workers.

“I speak to employers every day and they always say we try as much as we possibly can to employ British workers. If we were to see a very quick reduction of immigration that would be a damaging blow for the economy.”

It is understood that the document is a draft, unfinished version of an upcoming White Paper circulated among senior officials and that there have been at least five earlier versions.

But pressure group Migration Watch described the proposals in it as “excellent”.

“Uncontrolled migration from the EU simply cannot be allowed to continue,” said the group’s chairman Lord Green.

“These proposals rightly focus on low-skilled migration and by doing so could reduce net migration from the EU by 100,000 a year over time.

“This would be an important step to achieving the government’s immigration target.”

UKIP also welcomed the proposals, saying they should be implemented “without fudging” – but Labour MP Yvette Cooper said they appeared to fly in the face of Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s commitment earlier this summer to consult on a post-Brexit immigration system.

The TUC said the “back of the envelope plans” would “create an underground economy, encouraging bad bosses to exploit migrants and undercut decent employers offering good jobs”.

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