Prior to the end of the transition period in 2021 the UK Government must put in place a new immigration policy for the country, to include new requirements for EU nationals, along with associated immigration rules, processes, criteria and systems. We can expect to understand the contours of these new schemes during the course of 2018.
The most important landmarks this year will include:
Immigration Bill 2018 – the Government will introduce the legislation necessary to implement the new immigration arrangements. This will be the first clear indication of its favoured approach to future UK immigration policy and will also provide the necessary legal framework for the new settlement and registration schemes for EU nationals during the transition period.
Report of Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) – in July 2017 the Government commissioned the MAC to advise on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the European Union and also how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy. The MAC published a Call for Evidence from stakeholders in August with the deadline for responses at the end of October. Many UK employers, industry bodies, trade unions, law firms and professional advisors have made submissions. The MAC’s task is considerable. Whilst the Government is not under any obligation to follow the recommendations of the MAC, whose role is purely advisory, history suggests that their advice will be taken seriously. The report is due in September.
Net Migration Target – the Government has a long-standing policy of reducing net migration annually to the tens of thousands. The target has never been achieved and the last published figure was 230,000 (representing a drop of around 100,000 since the referendum in June 2016). The 2018 figures will inform the development of future immigration policy. The Prime Minister is under pressure from some quarters to abandon the target entirely or to remove foreign students from the figures. So far she has resisted this, however her weakened political position may result in additional pressures on her.