What to expect from the Conservatives on immigration after landslide victory

December 18, 2019

As the saying goes, “party’s campaign in poetry and govern in prose”.

Therefore, in the wake of the Conservative Party winning the UK General Election with a convincing majority, it is time to put aside their “poetic” campaigning and focus on their “prosaic” intentions.

On the weekend before the election, the Conservatives circulated their plan for a points based immigration system to selected journalists. Despite not being publically available, the policy plan has been leaked online.

Here is what we know so far of what the newly-elected government intends to do after Brexit.

The circulated document described three categories of visa after Brexit:

  1. “Exceptional talent/contribution” – this incorporates entrepreneur and investment visas (similar to the current Tier 1);
  2. “Skilled workers” (similar to the current Tier 2) – the vast majority of these visas would require a job offer. This is in line with how work visas for non-EU citizens are allocated now. However, this means a change for European citizens who would eventually come under this regime with the end of free movement. This element is different to the Australian points based visas that the system is supposedly modelled on, which do not require a job offer; and
  3. “Sector-specific rules-based” – this replaces free movement of labour from Europe with state planning, outsourced to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). This is where the government will attempt to match the demand for workers in specific sectors with enough visas to supply that demand. The MAC’s augmented role will include “lowering overall immigration” and “meeting the needs of the UK’s economy”.

A new role for the MAC is detailed in the plan, with an annual report published and presented via a public letter to the Home Secretary, advising the Government on how to reduce net migration whilst addressing emerging gaps in the labour market.

The plan details a digital immigration status to crack down on illegal overstaying beyond 2022. This includes a formal exchange programme with the Australian and Canadian governments which allows experts to come to the UK to advise officials during the development of the system.

The final section of the Conservatives circulated plan covers the party’s recent record on immigration, detailing policies which have been implemented and/or reversed.

This is a plan made radical by the fact that it heralds the end of free movement of workers from the European Union. However, it only covers economic migration. The party’s manifesto sets out that current practice will continue in a number of other areas concerning the immigration system: a “compliant environment” of citizen-on-citizen document checking, restrictive rules on visas for spouses and elderly relatives, sky-high fees and a creaking asylum system.

Lastly, the Conservative manifesto talks of judicial review reform, which with the erosion of appeal rights in immigration cases represents a more important tool than before for vindicating the rights of migrants.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Immigration is a complex area of law for both corporates and individuals. Please contact our Business Immigration / Employment Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.

Conor McCrory, Associate, Immigration Law Team, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Solicitors.