In his first statement to Parliament today, the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that he will ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a review of the Points Based System (PBS). Mr Johnson has for many years advocated the introduction of an “Australian-style” points based system as the mechanism for immigration control in a post-Brexit environment.
There is a sense of deja-vu in this announcement. The MAC was asked in 2017 to produce a report on the current and likely future patterns of EEA migration and the impacts of that migration on the labour market. Following an extensive period of consultation with stakeholders, the MAC published their report in September 2018. In turn this report influenced the Government’s White Paper on “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system” that was published in December 2018.
Given the change in leadership, both at number 10 and across Government, it appears that future immigration policy is, once again, under review. It is most unlikely that the MAC will be able to produce a further report prior to the 31st October which, we are told, is the definitive date of departure from the EU. Inevitably there will have to be a transitional period to new immigration arrangements, either in the way envisaged by the Withdrawal Agreement to 2021 or by unilateral domestic provisions.
The UK has of course had a Points Based System for skilled and economic migration since 2008, so the concept is not new. The MAC has already recommended changes to PBS in the context of a new one-world immigration framework when freedom of movement of EU citizens disappears. It will therefore be interesting to read the specific questions posed by Government to the MAC and to understand the precise parameters of the commission of this new report.
The new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, will commission the MAC report in the coming days.
In his statement today the Prime Minister reinforced his Government’s commitment to preserving the right to remain of EU nationals currently living in the UK regardless of the Brexit outcome. He also emphasised his liberal credentials on migration policy and the fact that he understands the economic benefits of migration.
However, other than the commitment to leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no-deal, there is as yet no detail underpinning the new Government’s approach to migration policy.