This Bill will end the law of free movement in the UK, and allow the UK to set its own immigration rules, replacing those of the EU.
The Bill does not set out the new immigration rules, but it does state that Irish nationals would effectively be exempt from these measures and would not require leave to enter or remain in the UK.
What Is Free Movement?
At the moment, citizens from the European Economic Area (that’s the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland have the right to enter the UK and reside there for an initial period of three months. It also means that EEA nationals can reside in the UK as a ‘qualified person’, such as a jobseeker, worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person like a retiree or homemaker, or student, for as long as they have that status. It also means that if an EEA national has lived in the UK under free movement regulations for five years, they then have the right to permanent residence.
The Bill will also enable the UK to respond to its withdrawal from the EU and the outcome of negotiations by making changes to social security arrangements. It will allow the Government to implement new benefit rules for EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK.
This Bill is part of the package of laws the Government want to pass in order to make Brexit happen, and ending free movement was one of the main points of the Leave campaign. Last year the Prime Minister said:
We are clear that as we leave the EU, free movement of people will come to an end and we will control the number of people who come to live in our country
Without this Bill, even after Brexit, EEA and Swiss nationals would be able to continue to live and work in the UK in accordance with retained EU law on free movement of people.
This is a Government Bill, introduced by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Obviously those people that oppose Brexit will also oppose this Bill. The free movement of people is one of the four ‘freedoms’ which together underpin the EU’s Single Market. Caroline Lucas MP from the Green Party said that free movement “has enriched Britain both culturally and economically”, and the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP said “you cannot have access to the single market or be part of the single market without freedom of movement”.
There are concerns that ending free movement could have a negative impact on a number of sectors including agriculture, healthcare and higher education. Some critics have also questioned whether the Immigration Bill should include a right of appeal for EU citizens who are refused settled status.
How to get involved
You can contact your local MP
If I don’t act, will it go through?
This is a Government Bill, which usually means that it will become law. But the Government does not have a majority at the moment, and this is a contentious Bill, so all bets are off.