The government introduced the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020 in the House of Commons on 5 March 2020. It had its second reading in the House on 18 May 2020.
Previous legislation to end free movement fell away when Parliament was prorogued ahead of the December General Election
On introducing the new bill, Kevin Foster, the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration stated:
“This bill marks the momentous first step towards ending free movement, taking back control of our borders, and delivering on the people’s priorities.
Our firmer and fairer points-based immigration system will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, prioritising those who come to Britain based on the skills they have to offer, not on the passport they hold”.
The aim of the legislation is to end free movement and pave the way for “a modern, fairer points-based immigration system that will welcome skilled workers from across the world to contribute to the United Kingdom’s economy, communities and public services”.
The bill will end the EU’s rules on free movement of persons, which are retained in UK law by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as amended by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, and will make citizens from the EU, the EEA EFTA states of Iceland, Liechenstein and Switzerland, and their family members, subject to UK immigration controls. This means that they will be treated in the same way as citizens from the rest of the world and they will require permission to enter and remain in the UK for example, to work or study. For EU citizens, and their UK based employers, this represents a seismic change to the legal order.
EU Settlement Scheme
The residence rights of EEA citizens and their family members who are in the UK by the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) are protected through the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was opened in March 2019 and so far about 3 million people have successfully applied for settled or pre-settled status.
The deadline for applications under EUSS is 30 June 2021 but remains open beyond the end of this year only for people who arrive before 1 January 2021.
The bill makes special provision for Irish citizens. The preferential arrangements for Irish citizens pre-date the UK’s membership of the EU and are reflected in the Common Travel Area arrangements. The bill ensures that Irish citizens will not require permission to enter or remain in the UK after free movement ends, regardless of the Irish citizen’s point of departure.
The bill also gives ministers powers to modify primary or secondary legislation as appropriate in consequence of, or in connection with, the immigration provisions in the bill. This will enable ministers to align existing immigration laws for EEA citizens with those for non-EEA citizens . Amendments to UK law, designed to ensure that UK legislation is coherent following the end of free movement, may be made by Statutory Instrument.
Social Security Co-ordination
The bill will allow the government and/ or a devolved authority to implement new benefit rules for EEA citizens in the UK.
A more detailed explanation of the content of the Bill can be found in Parliament’s Explanatory Notes.