The draft paper, believed to not be signed off by ministers, suggests the UK will adopt a “more selective approach” based on the UK’s economic and social needs, while ending free movement upon exit of the EU in March 2019.
The document states the Government will look at elements such as skills shortages when deciding immigration numbers, while introducing a new system that would end the right to settle in Britain for most EU workers – which would also implement restrictions on their rights to bring in family members.
The leaked paper reads: “The public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration from the EU. Although net migration from the EU has fallen over the past year, we cannot exercise control over it at present, as free movement gives EU citizens a right to reside in the UK regardless of the economic needs of this country”.
However, the draft document states the Government has commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a technical study that will explore how the economy currently makes use of, and recruits, EU citizens – something that has been welcomed by both the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR).
Reacting to the leaked document, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said, if implemented, the document would “undermine the needs of the pub industry”.
“We rely a great deal on those with the soft skills needed to provide great hospitality,” said Simmonds.
“While the brewing and pub sector does employ thousands of UK citizens, 17% of our 900,000 employees are from overseas and this rises to 40%-plus, in metropolitan areas.”
Low unemployment rates
Simmonds said the UK's low unemployment rates are going to make it “extremely hard to replace these employees with UK nationals”.
“If there were to be a cap for EU employees, it must be at a level that can sustain our industry,” she continued.
“Overall, there must be a greater understanding of the needs of our sector from Government, if we are to continue to compete for customers and provide the service and quality expected from overseas and domestic visitors; some 14m of which visit the great British pub every week.”
Sheds ‘little light’
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said she hopes the reaction to the paper will “help to shape changes to what is purported to be Government policy in waiting”.
“With regard to its content, it actually sheds little further light on what we already knew,” said Nicholls.
“Although the document is leaked and not a sanctioned publication, we can also take assurances from the Government’s apparent adherence to its commitments to a phased approach.
“The Government has said it wants to base any future immigration policy on economic needs. With eating and drinking out the second largest employer of non-UK workers in terms of number and fifth largest by proportion, we will be highlighting the need for flexibility for employers to ensure the system is beneficial to our sector.”
According to the BBC, ministers will be setting out their “initial proposals” for a new immigration system “which takes back control of the UK’s borders” later in the year – with a Government spokesman stating it did not comment on “leaked draft” documents.